Inequality and Social Rank: Income Increases Buy More Life Satisfaction in More Equal Countries



Quispe-Torreblanca EG, Brown GDA, Boyce CJ, Wood AM & De Neve J (2021) Inequality and Social Rank: Income Increases Buy More Life Satisfaction in More Equal Countries. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 47 (4), pp. 519-539.

How do income and income inequality combine to influence subjective well-being? We examined the relation between income and life satisfaction in different societies, and found large effects of income inequality within a society on the relationship between individuals’ incomes and their life satisfaction. The income–satisfaction gradient is steeper in countries with more equal income distributions, such that the positive effect of a 10% increase in income on life satisfaction is more than twice as large in a country with low income inequality as it is in a country with high income inequality. These findings are predicted by an income rank hypothesis according to which life satisfaction is derived from social rank. A fixed increment in income confers a greater increment in social position in a more equal society. Income inequality may influence people’s preferences, such that in unequal countries people’s life satisfaction is determined more strongly by their income.

inequality; well-being; income rank; life satisfaction; social class; materialism

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: Volume 47, Issue 4

Publication date30/04/2021
Publication date online29/05/2020
Date accepted by journal14/04/2020

People (1)


Dr Christopher Boyce

Dr Christopher Boyce

Honorary Research Fellow, SMS Management and Support