, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 439-469
Date: 20 Aug 2011

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

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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.

The authors thank participants at the International Conference on Policies for Happiness in Sienna, the 76th Annual SEA Meetings, the 11th Texas Econometrics Camp, the 7th Annual Missouri Economics Conference, and seminar participants at Sam Houston State University and the University of Houston for their valuable comments and suggestions. Special thanks to Rainer Winkelmann.