Income and Happiness Across Europe: Do Reference Values Matter?
33 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2007
Date Written: November 2007
Using data from the European Social Survey (ESS), we examine the link between income and subjective well-being. We find that, for the whole sample of nineteen European countries, although income is positively correlated with both happiness and life satisfaction, reference income exerts a negative effect on individual well-being, a result consistent with the relative utility hypothesis. Performing separate analyses for some Eastern European countries, we also find some evidence of a 'tunnel effect', in that reference income has a positive impact on subjective well-being. Our findings support the view that in environments with stable income and employment, reference income serves as a basis for social comparisons, whereas in relatively volatile environments, it is used as a source of information for forming expectations about future status.
Keywords: comparison income, reference groups, happiness, life satisfaction
JEL Classification: I31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation