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Relative Economic Position and Subjective Well-Being in a Poor Society: Does Relative Position Indicator Matter?

Muna Shifa () and Murray Leibbrandt ()
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Muna Shifa: University of Cape Town
Murray Leibbrandt: University of Cape Town

Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, 2018, vol. 139, issue 2, 611-630

Abstract: Abstract Concern for relative income (or status in general) may have important implications for poverty and individual well-being. This paper examines the impact of relative economic position on individual’s level of well-being among poor communities in rural Ethiopia. The analysis uses a self-reported measure of overall life-evaluation as a measure of individual well-being. Despite the fact that well-being is multidimensional, the impact of non-money metric measures of relative economic position on individual well-being has not been given a lot of attention in the literature. In this study, relative economic position is measured using consumption data, asset index, and respondent’s own perception of relative wealth. The asset index captures the non-monetary dimensions of economic welfare, including education, physical assets, and social capital. We use data from the 2004 and 2009 waves of the Ethiopia Rural Household Survey and employ a multilevel modelling technique to account for individual and group level heterogeneity in our empirical analysis. We find no significant relationship between individual well-being and relative economic position measured with in consumption terms. In contrast, we do find a significant negative impact of relative position on individual well-being when we use asset indices and respondent’s own perception of relative wealth to measure relative economic position. Our findings suggest that when individuals compare themselves with others, they evaluate various aspects of their life, including their financial conditions, asset holdings, and social relations, which are hardly captured by consumption or income data in many poor countries.

Keywords: Positional goods; Relative income; Subjective well-being; Multilevel modelling (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D62 I31 C23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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