Who compares to whom? The anatomy of income comparisons in Europe
Andrew E. Clark
This paper provides unprecedented direct evidence on the intensity and direction of income comparisons. Income comparisons are considered to be important by a considerable majority of Europeans. They are associated with both lower levels of self-reported satisfaction and a greater demand for income redistribution. Colleagues are the most frequently-cited reference group, and the most innocuous one; comparisons to friends are both less widespread and much more toxic for satisfaction. This set of findings is consistent with information effects, as professional reference groups may represent a source of information about one's future prospects rather than a simple benchmark for comparisons.
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