Quarterly Review 1932

Incorporating Concern for Relative Wealth Into Economic Models

Andrew Postlewaite
George J. Mailath
Harold L. Cole

Summer 1995

This article develops a simple model that captures a concern for relative standing, or status. This concern is instrumental, in the sense that individuals do not get utility directly from their relative standing, but, rather, the concern is induced because their relative standing affects their consumption of standard commodities. The article investigates the consequences of a concern for relative wealth in models in which individuals are making labor/leisure decisions. The analysis shows how individuals' decisions are affected by the aggregate income distribution and how the concern for relative wealth can generate behavior that can be interpreted as conspicuous consumption when wealth is not directly observable.

Download Paper (pdf)