Beyond the Joneses

Working Paper 2011-189


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.

Authors: Leonardo Becchetti, Stefano Castriota, Elena Giachin .

Keywords: life satisfaction, relative income, standard of living, comparisons
JEL: D31, E01, I31, J61