IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Reign in Hell or Serve in Heaven? A Cross-country Journey into the Relative vs Absolute Perceptions of Wellbeing

  • Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano.

Questionnaires exploring the relativist vs absolutist perception of wellbeing are administered to 3,883 respondents in eight different countries, four low-income countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya and Laos, 1,924 respondents) and four high-income countries (Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, 1,959 respondents). Our data reveal that wellbeing is perceived mainly in relative terms with the strength of relativism being higher for respondents in high-income countries. However, when the satisfaction of some ‘basic needs’ is at stake the absolutist concern becomes powerful. Additional insights emerge from our study. Interpersonal comparisons take place by looking both ‘upward’ and ‘downward’ along the income scale, not only income ranking but also the magnitude of reference incomes plays a role and the perception of wellbeing is more elastic to absolute rather than relative income. Finally, personal characteristics such as gender and background of studies have a significant role in determining respondents’ relativist perception of wellbeing.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: ftp://ftp.unibocconi.it/pub/RePEc/slp/papers/islawp36.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy in its series ISLA Working Papers with number 36.

as
in new window

Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:slp:islawp:islawp36
Contact details of provider: Postal:
via Sarfatti, 25 - 20136 Milano - Italy

Phone: +39.025836.2296
Fax: +39.025836.5439
Web page: http://www.isla.unibocconi.it/

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2002. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 92, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  2. AndrewE. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 573-594, 05.
  3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," CESifo Working Paper Series 2394, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Paul, Satya, 1991. "An index of relative deprivation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 337-341.
  5. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter & Medhin, Haileselassie, 2009. "Does Positional Concern Matter in Poor Societies? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Rural Ethiopia," IZA Discussion Papers 4354, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. A. Abel, 2010. "Asset prices under habit formation and catching up with the Jones," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1395, David K. Levine.
  7. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Amiel, Yoram & Cowell, Frank A., 1992. "Measurement of income inequality : Experimental test by questionnaire," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 3-26, February.
  9. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  10. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter, 2011. "Does relative income matter for the very poor? Evidence from rural Ethiopia," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 110(3), pages 213-215, March.
  11. Sen, Amartya K, 1976. "Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(2), pages 219-31, March.
  12. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  13. van de Stadt, Huib & Kapteyn, Arie & van de Geer, Sara, 1985. "The Relativity of Utility: Evidence from Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 179-87, May.
  14. Sen, Amartya, 1984. "The Living Standard," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(0), pages 74-90, Supplemen.
  15. Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Martinsson, Peter, 2003. "Do You Enjoy Having More Than Others? Survey Evidence of Positional Goods," Working Papers in Economics 100, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  16. Sara J. Solnick & David Hemenway, 2005. "Are Positional Concerns Stronger in Some Domains than in Others?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 147-151, May.
  17. BOSMANS, Kristof & SCHOKKAERT, Erik, . "Equality preference in the claims problem: a questionnaire study of cuts in earnings and pensions," CORE Discussion Papers RP 2166, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  18. Ruut Veenhoven, 1991. "Is happiness relative?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 1-34, February.
  19. 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.
  20. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
  21. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  22. Andreoni, James & Vesterlund, Lise, 2001. "Which is the Fair Sex? Gender Differences in Altruism," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1951, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  23. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  24. Podder, Nripesh, 1996. "Relative Deprivation, Envy and Economic Inequality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 353-76.
  25. Easterlin, Richard A. & Angelescu McVey, Laura, 2009. "Happiness and Growth the World Over: Time Series Evidence on the Happiness-Income Paradox," IZA Discussion Papers 4060, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. Selten, Reinhard & Ockenfels, Axel, 1998. "An experimental solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 517-539, March.
  27. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1993. "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 10018, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  28. Jones-Lee, M W & Hammerton, M & Philips, P R, 1985. "The Value of Safety: Results of a National Sample Survey," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(377), pages 49-72, March.
  29. Carsten Schmidt & Matthias Sutter & Werner Güth, 2005. "Bargaining Outside the Lab - A Newspaper Experiment of a Three-Person Ultimatum Game," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2006-04, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  30. Oswald, Andrew J. & Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2009. "Happiness and Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 4645, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  31. Dufwenberg, Martin & Muren, Astri, 2006. "Gender composition in teams," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 50-54, September.
  32. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  33. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  34. Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-324.
  35. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2005. "Who cares about relative deprivation ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3782, The World Bank.
  36. Alois Stutzer, . "The Role of Income Aspirations in Individual Happiness," IEW - Working Papers 124, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  37. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon & John Knight, 2006. "Subjective well-being poverty vs. Income poverty and capabilities poverty?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1199-1224.
  38. Frank, Robert H, 1997. "The Frame of Reference as a Public Good," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1832-47, November.
  39. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "How Much Do We Care About Absolute Versus Relative Income and Consumption?," Working Papers in Economics 63, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  40. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2006. "To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 85, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  41. Lommerud, Kjell Erik, 1989. "Educational Subsidies When Relative Income Matters," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(3), pages 640-52, July.
  42. Ernst Fehr & Michael Naef & Klaus M. Schmidt, 2006. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1912-1917, December.
  43. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  44. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
  45. Richard Layard & Guy Mayraz & Stephen Nickell, 2009. "Does Relative Income Matter? Are the Critics Right?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0918, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  46. Ireland, Norman J., 1998. "Status-seeking, income taxation and efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 99-113, October.
  47. ED Diener & Carol Diener, 1995. "The wealth of nations revisited: Income and quality of life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 275-286, November.
  48. Kakwani, Nanak & Silber, Jacques, 2008. "Introduction: Multidimensional Poverty Analysis: Conceptual Issues, Empirical Illustrations and Policy Implications," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(6), pages 987-991, June.
  49. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
  50. Ireland, N. J., 2001. "Optimal income tax in the presence of status effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 193-212, August.
  51. Frank, Robert H., 2008. "Should public policy respond to positional externalities?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1777-1786, August.
  52. 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.
  53. Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation When Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601.
  54. John D. Hey & Peter J. Lambert, 1980. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient: Comment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(3), pages 567-573.
  55. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  56. Udo Ebert, 2009. "Taking empirical studies seriously: the principle of concentration and the measurement of welfare and inequality," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 32(4), pages 555-574, May.
  57. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1987. "Relative-Income Effects and the Appropriate Level of Public Expenditure," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(2), pages 293-300, June.
  58. 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.
  59. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  60. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-283.
  61. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  62. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
  63. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  64. Harald Uhlig & Lars Ljungqvist, 2000. "Tax Policy and Aggregate Demand Management under Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 356-366, June.
  65. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Poor, Relatively Speaking," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 153-69, July.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:slp:islawp:islawp36. 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: (Stefano Riela)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.