IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/25826.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Inequality and happiness: When perceived social mobility and economic reality do not match

Author

Listed:
  • Bjornskov, Christian
  • Dreher, Axel
  • Fischer, Justina AV
  • Schnellenbach, Jan

Abstract

In this paper, we revisit the association between happiness and inequality. We argue that the interaction between the perceived and the actual fairness of the income generation process affects this association. Building on a simple model of individual labor-market participation under uncertainty, we predict that higher levels of perceived fairness cause higher levels of utility, and lower preferred levels of income redistribution. In societies with a low level of actual social mobility, income inequality is perceived more negatively with increased perceived fairness, due to the need for unexpected policy changes as a response to many unsuccessful investments of overly optimistic individuals. This effect becomes smaller as actual social mobility increases. Using data on happiness and a broad set of fairness measures from the World Values Survey, we find strong support for the negative (positive) association between fairness perceptions and the demand for more equal incomes (subjective well-being). We also find strong empirical support for the disappointment effect in countries with low social mobility. Consistent with our theoretical model, the results for high-mobility countries turn out to be ambiguous.

Suggested Citation

  • Bjornskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina AV & Schnellenbach, Jan, 2010. "Inequality and happiness: When perceived social mobility and economic reality do not match," MPRA Paper 25826, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25826
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/25826/1/MPRA_paper_25826.pdf
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Marklein, Felix & Sunde, Uwe, 2009. "Biased probability judgment: Evidence of incidence and relationship to economic outcomes from a representative sample," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 903-915, December.
    2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868.
    3. Justina A.V. Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2013. "Do Positional Concerns Destroy Social Capital: Evidence From 26 Countries," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1542-1565, April.
    4. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2005. "Beyond outcomes: measuring procedural utility," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(1), pages 90-111, January.
    6. Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Who Benefits from Economic Freedom? Unraveling the Effect of Economic Freedom on Subjective Well-Being," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 74-90.
    7. Thomas Piketty, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-584.
    8. Corneo, Giacomo & Gruner, Hans Peter, 2002. "Individual preferences for political redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 83-107, January.
    9. Bjørnskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V. & Schnellenbach, Jan & Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Inequality and happiness: When perceived social mobility and economic reality do not match," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 75-92.
    10. Layard, Richard & Mayraz, Guy & Nickell, Stephen, 2009. "Does relative income matter? Are the critics right?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28594, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    11. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-591, September.
    12. Andrew CLARK & Emanuela D'ANGELO, 2010. "Upward Social Mobility, Well-being and;Political Preferences: Evidence from the;BHPS," Working Papers 338, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche (I), Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Sociali.
    13. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
    14. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina Fischer, 2008. "Cross-country determinants of life satisfaction: exploring different determinants across groups in society," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 30(1), pages 119-173, January.
    15. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    16. Hertz Tom & Jayasundera Tamara & Piraino Patrizio & Selcuk Sibel & Smith Nicole & Verashchagina Alina, 2008. "The Inheritance of Educational Inequality: International Comparisons and Fifty-Year Trends," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-48, January.
    17. Orsetta Causa & Sophie Dantan & Åsa Johansson, 2009. "Intergenerational Social Mobility in European OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 709, OECD Publishing.
    18. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2005. "Preferences for redistribution in the land of opportunities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 897-931, June.
    19. Hirschman, Albert O., 1973. "The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 1(12), pages 29-36, December.
    20. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, happiness and relative concerns: What actually is their relationship?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 6(4), pages 351-372, December.
    21. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    22. Carol Graham & Andrew Felton, 2006. "Inequality and happiness: Insights from Latin America," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(1), pages 107-122, April.
    23. Ederer, Florian & Patacconi, Andrea, 2010. "Interpersonal comparison, status and ambition in organizations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 348-363, August.
    24. Orsetta Causa & Åsa Johansson, 2009. "Intergenerational Social Mobility," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 707, OECD Publishing.
    25. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Happiness and age cycles – return to start…," MPRA Paper 15249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    26. Orsetta Causa & Catherine Chapuis, 2009. "Equity in Student Achievement Across OECD Countries: An Investigation of the Role of Policies," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 708, OECD Publishing.
    27. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899. "The Theory of the Leisure Class," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1899.
    28. Miles Cahill, 2005. "Is the Human Development Index Redundant?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-5, Winter.
    29. Teresa Casey & Christian Dustmann, 2010. "Immigrants' Identity, Economic Outcomes and the Transmission of Identity across Generations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(542), pages 31-51, February.
    30. Jo Blanden, 2013. "Cross-Country Rankings In Intergenerational Mobility: A Comparison Of Approaches From Economics And Sociology," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(1), pages 38-73, February.
    31. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    32. Irena Grosfeld & Claudia Senik, 2009. "The emerging aversion to inequality - Evidence from long subjective data," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586788, HAL.
    33. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
    34. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, July.
    35. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
    36. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Subjective Well-Being as Welfare Measure: Concepts and Methodology," MPRA Paper 16619, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    37. Harms, Philipp & Zink, Stefan, 2003. "Limits to redistribution in a democracy: a survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 651-668, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Who Benefits from Economic Freedom? Unraveling the Effect of Economic Freedom on Subjective Well-Being," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 74-90.
    2. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," Working Papers halshs-00967938, HAL.
    3. Raab, Roman, 2016. "Workplace perception and job-satisfaction of older workers," MPRA Paper 70917, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Florian Dorn & Christoph Schinke, 2018. "Top Income Shares in OECD Countries: The Role of Government Ideology and Globalization," ifo Working Paper Series 246, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    5. Bjørnskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V. & Schnellenbach, Jan & Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Inequality and happiness: When perceived social mobility and economic reality do not match," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 75-92.
    6. Engelhardt, Carina & Wagener, Andreas, 2014. "Biased Perceptions of Income Inequality and Redistribution," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100395, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Jesper Rözer & Gerbert Kraaykamp, 2013. "Income Inequality and Subjective Well-being: A Cross-National Study on the Conditional Effects of Individual and National Characteristics," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 1009-1023, September.
    8. repec:erc:cypepr:v:11:y:2017:i:1:p:41-68 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Clark, Andrew E. & D'Ambrosio, Conchita, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 8136, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Lars Feld & Jan Schnellenbach, 2014. "Political institutions and income (re-)distribution: evidence from developed economies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 435-455, June.
    11. Sibylle Puntscher & Janette Walde & Gottfried Tappeiner, 2016. "Do methodical traps lead to wrong development strategies for welfare? A multilevel approach considering heterogeneity across industrialized and developing countries," Working Papers 2016-01, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    12. repec:eee:socmed:v:188:y:2017:i:c:p:11-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Eiji Yamamura, 2014. "Comparing the influence of conflict on the perceptions of rich and poor: testing the hypothesis of Acemoglu and Robinson," ISER Discussion Paper 0911, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    14. Justina A.V. Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2013. "Do Positional Concerns Destroy Social Capital: Evidence From 26 Countries," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1542-1565, April.
    15. repec:kap:iecepo:v:14:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10368-016-0371-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Christoph Schinke, 2014. "Government Ideology, Globalization, and Top Income Shares in OECD Countries," ifo Working Paper Series 181, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    17. Schnellenbach, Jan & Schubert, Christian, 2014. "Behavioral public choice: A survey," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 14/03, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    18. Kuhn, Andreas, 2015. "The Subversive Nature of Inequality: Subjective Inequality Perceptions and Attitudes to Social Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 9406, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Germán Reyes & Leonardo Gasparini, 2017. "Perceptions of Distributive Justice in Latin America During a Period of Falling Inequality," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0209, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
    20. AMENDOLA, Adalgiso & DELL'ANNO, Roberto & PARISI, Lavinia, 2015. "Happiness, Inequality and Relative Concerns in European Countries," CELPE Discussion Papers 136, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.
    21. Andreas Kuhn, 2016. "The Subversive Nature of Inequality: Subjective Inequality Perceptions and Attitudes to Social Inequality," CESifo Working Paper Series 6023, CESifo Group Munich.
    22. Eichenauer, Vera Z. & Fuchs, Andreas & Brueckner, Lutz, 2018. "The Effects of Trade, Aid, and Investment on China's Image in Developing Countries," Working Papers 0646, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.
    23. Kalenborn, Christine & Lessmann, Christian, 2014. "Regional Income Inequality lowers Life Satisfaction: Evidence from OECD Countries," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100561, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    24. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1327-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Nikolaev, Boris & Bennett, Daniel L., 2016. "Give me liberty and give me control: Economic freedom, control perceptions and the paradox of choice," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 45(S), pages 39-52.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Happiness; life satisfaction; subjective well-being; inequality; income distribution; redistribution; political ideology; justice; fairness; World Values Survey;

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25826. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/vfmunde.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.