Social Indicators Research

, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 849–869 | Cite as

Social Comparisons and Life Satisfaction Across Racial and Ethnic Groups: The Effects of Status, Information and Solidarity

  • Lewis Davis
  • Stephen WuEmail author


This paper explores the role of within group social comparisons on the life satisfaction of different racial and ethnic groups in the US. For Whites, we find that higher group income levels are associated with lower levels of life satisfaction, a result that is consistent with a preference for within group status. In contrast, life satisfaction is increasing in group income for Blacks. This result is consistent with the existence of social norms that emphasize Black solidarity. It is also consistent with an information effect in which Blacks rely on peer income levels to form expectations regarding their future prospects. We introduce a theoretical framework to help to distinguish between solidarity and information effects. Our empirical results provide strong support for the hypothesis that solidarity rather than information accounts for the positive relationship between average Black income and the subjective wellbeing of US Blacks. Finally, we consider two theories of social solidarity and find support for social salience but not social density in determining the strength of solidarity effects.


Happiness Subjective wellbeing Race Ethnicity Status Relative income preferences Solidarity Altruism Tunnel effects 



We thank Sandy Darity, Andrew Oswald, Stephen Schmidt and an anonymous referee for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsHamilton CollegeClintonUSA

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