ISER Discussion Paper, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University 795
This paper provides evidence from Internet-based, large-scale survey data of hypothetical choice experiment on the relative utility hypothesis. The methodology exploited here complements previous empirical results from happiness studies, incentivized choice experiment studies, and neuroscience studies in such a way that methodological problems among previous studies within these fields are resolved. We show that not only the intensity but also the distribution of relative utility are different across specific comparison benchmarks (internal reference group), and across types of reference groups people are facing in the experiments (external reference group). The relative utility effect among Japanese respondents, while shown to exist in the form of jealousy, is found to be not as strong as can validate the Easterlin paradox. Comparison benchmark with daily contacts is related to stronger jealousy. We also provide empirical evidence, which nuances that the reference group is chosen endogenously.