Do Envy and Compassion Pave the Way to Unhappiness? Social Preferences and Life Satisfaction in a Spanish City

Journal of Happiness Studies, Forthcoming

58 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2015 Last revised: 4 Dec 2016

See all articles by Antonio Espín

Antonio Espín

University of Granada

Dolores Moreno-Herrero

University of Granada

José Sánchez-Campillo

University of Granada

José Rodríguez Martín

University of Granada

Date Written: December 1, 2016

Abstract

Mounting evidence shows that people’s self-reported life satisfaction (LS) is negatively related to income inequality. Under the interpretation that the relationship between macro-level variables and LS reflects individuals’ social preferences, this finding indicates that most people display inequality-averse preferences. We explore the relationship between self-reports on inequality aversion and LS in a citywide representative survey/experiment conducted in Spain. If self-reported well-being can be used to infer people’s social preferences, LS should correlate negatively with both “envy” and “compassion” scores (i.e., how much one suffers from disadvantageous and advantageous inequality, respectively). We find that LS relates negatively to envy but positively to compassion, which would imply that suffering from observing poorer others, paradoxically, increases well-being. Using an incentivized Dictator Game as a measure of generous behavior, we reject the hypothesis that the positive link between compassion and LS is actually driven by generosity. We discuss how these findings could indicate that the way LS is used to assess social preferences in the population should be revised.

Keywords: well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, social preferences, inequality aversion, competitiveness, generosity, dictator game

JEL Classification: I31, D03, D12, D31, D63, D64

Suggested Citation

Espín, Antonio and Moreno-Herrero, Dolores and Sánchez-Campillo, José and Rodríguez Martín, José, Do Envy and Compassion Pave the Way to Unhappiness? Social Preferences and Life Satisfaction in a Spanish City (December 1, 2016). Journal of Happiness Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2671157 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2671157

Antonio Espín (Contact Author)

University of Granada ( email )

Campus de Cartuja S/N
Granada, Granada 18071
Spain

Dolores Moreno-Herrero

University of Granada ( email )

C/Rector López Argueta S/N
Granada, Granada 18071
Spain

José Sánchez-Campillo

University of Granada ( email )

C/Rector López Argueta S/N
Granada, Granada 18071
Spain

José Rodríguez Martín

University of Granada ( email )

C/Rector López Argueta S/N
Granada, Granada 18071
Spain

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
49
Abstract Views
681
PlumX Metrics