Social Indicators Research

, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 439-469

First online:

Subjective Well-Being: Keeping Up with the Perception of the Joneses

  • Cahit GuvenAffiliated withDeakin University Email author 
  • , Bent E. SørensenAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Houston and CEPR

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Using data from the US General Social Survey 1972–2004, we study the role of perceptions and status in self-reported happiness. Reference group income negatively relates to own happiness and high perceptions about own relative income, quality of dwelling, and social class relate positively and very significantly to happiness. Perceptions about income and status matter more for females, and for low income, conservative, more social, and less trusting individuals. Dwelling perceptions matter more for males, and for middle income, married, conservative, more social, and less trusting individuals.


Happiness Social comparison Status Perceptions

JEL Classifications

D14 D63 I31