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Age, life-satisfaction, and relative income

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  • FitzRoy, Felix
  • Steinhardt, Max Friedrich
  • Nolan, Michael

Abstract

We first confirm previous results with the German Socio-economic Panel, and obtain strong negative effects of comparison income. However, when we split the sample by age, we find quite different results for reference income. The effects on life-satisfaction are positive and significant for those under 46, consistent with Hirschman's (1973) tunnel effect and only negative (and larger than in the full sample) for those over 46, when relative deprivation dominates. Thus for young respondents, reference income's signalling role, indicating potential future prospects, can outweigh relative deprivation effects. Own-income effects are also larger for the older sample, and of greater magnitude than the comparison income effect. In East Germany the reference income effects are insignificant for all age groups.

Suggested Citation

  • FitzRoy, Felix & Steinhardt, Max Friedrich & Nolan, Michael, 2011. "Age, life-satisfaction, and relative income," HWWI Research Papers 110, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:hwwirp:110
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
    2. Claudia Senik, 2008. "Ambition and Jealousy: Income Interactions in the 'Old' Europe versus the 'New' Europe and the United States," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(299), pages 495-513, August.
    3. Albert O. Hirschman & Michael Rothschild, 1973. "The Changing Tolerance for Income Inequality in the Course of Economic DevelopmentWith A Mathematical Appendix," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(4), pages 544-566.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
    7. AndrewE. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2009. "Job Satisfaction and Co-worker Wages: Status or Signal?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 430-447, March.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. Senik, Claudia, 2004. "When information dominates comparison: Learning from Russian subjective panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2099-2123, August.
    11. Drichoutis, Andreas C. & Nayga Jr., Rodolfo M. & Lazaridis, Panagiotis, 2010. "Do reference values matter? Some notes and extensions on "income and happiness across Europe"," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 479-486, August.
    12. 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.
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    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The relative income problem
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2015-02-25 19:49:17

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    Cited by:

    1. Hohenleitner, Ingrid & Hillmann, Katja, 2012. "Impact of Benefit Sanctions on Unemployment Outflow - Evidence from German Survey Data," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 66055, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Budría, Santiago & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-Cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 6419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Felix FitzRoy & Michael Nolan & Max Steinhardt & David Ulph, 2014. "Testing the tunnel effect: comparison, age and happiness in UK and German panels," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-30, December.

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