Ambition and Jealousy: Income Interactions in the ‘Old’ Europe versus the ‘New’ Europe and the United States

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Abstract

Using individual-level data from a large number of countries, this paper examines how self-reported subjective well-being depends on own income and reference income, where reference income is defined as the income of one's professional peers. It uncovers a divide between ‘old’—low-mobility—European countries on the one hand, and ‘new’ European post-Transition countries and the United States on the other. The relative importance of comparisons (‘jealousy’) versus information (‘ambition’) seems to depend on the degree of mobility and uncertainty in the considered countries.

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