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Beyond the Joneses: inter-country income comparisons and happiness

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  • Leonardo Becchetti
  • Stefano Castriota
  • Elena Giachin Ricca

Abstract

Our paper provides some novel evidence on the burgeoning literature on life satisfaction and relative comparisons by showing that in the last 30 years comparisons with the wellbeing of top income countries have generated progressively more negative feelings on a large sample of individuals in the Eurobarometer survey. The paper contributes in two main directions: (i) it shows that countries, and not just neighbors, can be reference groups; (ii) it documents a globalization effect by which distant countries become progressively closer and comparisons among them more intense and relevant. Our findings may be interpreted in support of the well known hypothesis that migratory decisions are affected by the gap in economic wellbeing between origin and destination country since they document that such gap affects individual life satisfaction.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonardo Becchetti & Stefano Castriota & Elena Giachin Ricca, 2010. "Beyond the Joneses: inter-country income comparisons and happiness," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 82/2010, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia.
  • Handle: RePEc:pia:wpaper:82/2010
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    Cited by:

    1. Aronsson, Thomas & Ghosh, Sugata & Wendner, Ronald, 2020. "Positional Preferences and Efficiency in a Dynamic Economy," MPRA Paper 108333, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    3. Djankov, Simeon & Nikolova, Elena & Zilinsky, Jan, 2016. "The happiness gap in Eastern Europe," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 108-124.
    4. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Economic Growth Evens Out Happiness: Evidence from Six Surveys," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(3), pages 405-419, September.
    5. Alpaslan Akay & Olivier Bargain & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2017. "Home Sweet Home?: Macroeconomic Conditions in Home Countries and the Well-Being of Migrants," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(2), pages 351-373.
    6. Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Päivi Lujala, 2019. "Economic Backwardness and Social Tension," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 121(2), pages 482-516, April.
    7. Thomas Aronsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2014. "When Samuelson Met Veblen Abroad: National and Global Public Good Provision when Social Comparisons Matter," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 81(322), pages 224-243, April.
    8. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Economic Growth Evens Out Happiness: Evidence from Six Surveys," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(3), pages 405-419, September.
    9. Stefano Herzel & Marco Nicolosi & Cătălin Stărică, 2012. "The cost of sustainability in optimal portfolio decisions," The European Journal of Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(3-4), pages 333-349, May.
    10. Barbara Dluhosch & Daniel Horgos, 2013. "Trading Up the Happiness Ladder," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 973-990, September.
    11. Edsel Beja, 2014. "Income growth and happiness: reassessment of the Easterlin Paradox," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 61(4), pages 329-346, December.
    12. Dai, Darong & Gao, Wenzheng & Tian, Guoqiang, 2020. "Relativity, mobility, and optimal nonlinear income taxation in an open economy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 57-82.
    13. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2015. "Keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths and the Tanakas: On international tax coordination and social comparisons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 71-86.
    14. Damiani, Mirella & Pompei, Fabrizio & Ricci, Andrea, 2011. "Temporary job protection and productivity growth in EU economies," MPRA Paper 29698, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Ed Diener & Ronald Inglehart & Louis Tay, 2013. "Theory and Validity of Life Satisfaction Scales," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 497-527, July.
    16. Davide Castellani & Fabio Pieri, 2011. "Foreign Investments and Productivity Evidence from European Regions," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 83/2011, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia.
    17. Benjamin Schalembier, 2016. "The Impact of Exposure to Other Countries on Life Satisfaction: An International Application of the Relative Income Hypothesis," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 221-239, August.
    18. Becchetti, Leonardo & Corrado, Luisa & Fiaschetti, Maurizio, 2013. "The heterogeneity of wellbeing "expenditure" preferences," AICCON Working Papers 128-2013, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    19. Aronsson, Thomas & Mannberg, Andrea, 2015. "Relative consumption of housing: Marginal saving subsidies and income taxes as a second-best policy?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 439-450.
    20. Leonardo Becchetti, 2013. "‘On the Measurement of Social Progress and Wellbeing’: A Commentary," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 4(3), pages 294-295, September.
    21. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Economic Growth Evens Out Happiness: Evidence from Six Surveys," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(3), pages 405-419, September.
    22. Francesco Venturini, 2011. "Product variety, product quality, and evidence of Schumpeterian endogenous growth: a note," Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica 93/2011, Università di Perugia, Dipartimento Economia.
    23. Chisari, Omar O. & Miller, Sebastián J., 2018. "Climate Change and Migration: A CGE Analysis for Two Large Urban Regions of Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 7510, Inter-American Development Bank.
    24. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2016. "Economic Growth Evens Out Happiness: Evidence from Six Surveys," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(3), pages 405-419, September.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    life satisfaction; relative income; standard of living; comparisons.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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