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Buying happiness in an unequal world: Rank of income more strongly predicts well-being in more unequal countries

Macchia, L., Plagnol, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-5705-8949 and Powdthavee, N. (2019). Buying happiness in an unequal world: Rank of income more strongly predicts well-being in more unequal countries. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract

Does income rank matter more for well-being in more unequal countries? Using more than 160,000 observations from 24 countries worldwide, we replicate previous studies and show that the ranked position of an individual’s income strongly predicts life evaluation and positive daily emotional experiences, while absolute and reference income generally have weak orno effects. Furthermore, we find the association between income rank and an individual’s well-being to be significantly larger in countries where income inequality, represented by the share of taxable income held by the top 1 %of income earners,is high. These results are robust to using an alternative measure of income inequality and different reference group specifications.Our findingssuggest that people in more unequal societies place greater weight on the pursuit of higher income ranks, which may contribute to enduringincome inequality in places where greater well-beingcan be bought from moving up the income ladder.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been accepted for publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Publisher Keywords: income rank, income inequality, life evaluation, subjective well-being, happiness
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/22665
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Official URL: 0146-1672

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