Inequality and happiness

Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Xavier Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. In recent years there has been an accumulation of empirical evidence suggesting that individuals dislike inequality. The literature has built upon estimating the degree of this dislike as well as its causes. The use of self-reported measures of satisfaction or well-being as a proxy for utility has been one of the empirical strategies used to this end. In this survey, we review the papers that estimate or examine the relationship between inequality and self-reported happiness to conclude that inequality correlates negatively with happiness in Western societies. Some of the surveyed papers identify particular sources of heterogeneity on preferences over inequality. The evidence for non-Western societies is more mixed and less reliable. Notwithstanding that, trust in the institutions seems to play an important role in shaping the relationship between income inequality and subjective well-being. We conclude with suggestions for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1027
JournalJournal of Economic Surveys
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Happiness
  • Inequality
  • Inequality aversion


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