Inequality and social rank: income increases buy more life satisfaction in more equal countries

Edika G. Quispe-Torreblanca, Gordon D.A. Brown, Christopher J. Boyce, Alex M. Wood, Jan Emmanuel De Neve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-539
Number of pages21
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number4
Early online date29 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Inequality and social rank: income increases buy more life satisfaction in more equal countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this