This paper provides an analysis of the social consequences of people seeking to keep up with the Joneses. All individuals attempt to reach a higher rank than the Joneses, including the Joneses themselves. This attitude gives rise to an equilibrium in which all individuals have equal utilities but unequal (gross) incomes. Due to a rat-race effect, individuals devote too much energy to climbing the social scale in this equilibrium. However, laissez-faire equilibrium is an equal-utility constrained social optimum. Unexpectedly, numerical simulations show that this theory could account for the observed distribution of intermediate wages.
Keeping up with the Joneses social interactions well-being inequalities efficiency