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Relative Deprivation, Reference Groups and the Assessment of Standard of Living

01/2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecosys.2011.04.006

ABSTRACT This paper proposes two new indices of relative deprivation, derived from an extension of the concept of the generalized Gini for the measurement of distributional change. Population- and income-weighted relative deprivation indices are then defined and, using panel data from the Consortium of Household Panels for European Socio-Economic Research, this paper checks which of the various ways of defining individual deprivation best fits the answers given by individuals on the degree of their satisfaction with income. The analysis finds that the deprivation indices proposed are consistently and negatively correlated with income satisfaction as reported by respondents, that income weighted measures fit better than population weighted measures, and that this fit improves with countries that experienced deep institutional changes such as the transitional economies of Eastern Europe.

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    ABSTRACT: This paper presents an empirical analysis of the importance of ‘comparison income’ for individual well-being or happiness. In other words, the influence of the income of a reference group on individual well-being is examined. The main novelty is that various hypotheses are tested: the importance of the own income, the relevance of the income of the reference group and of the distance between the own income and the income of the reference group, and most importantly the asymmetry of comparisons, i.e. the comparison income effect differing between rich and poor individuals. The analysis uses a self-reported measure of satisfaction with life as a measure of individual well-being. The data come from a large German panel known as GSOEP. The study concludes that the income of the reference group is about as important as the own income for individual happiness, that individuals are happier the larger their income is in comparison with the income of the reference group, and that for West Germany this comparison effect is asymmetric. This final result supports Dusenberry's idea that comparisons are mostly upwards.
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May 19, 2014