Don’t Look Up! Individual income comparisons and subjective well-being of students in Thailand

Thomas Dufhues, Judith Möllers, Antje Jantsch, Gertrud Buchenrieder, Laura Camfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that an individual’s position in an income stratum—more than the absolute income level—determines subjective well-being. However, studies on subjective well-being suffer from a critical methodological weakness: they use exogenously defined reference groups. Our study addresses this point by applying an innovative new survey instrument. We ask respondents to identify individual reference persons for income comparisons. We find that these reference persons come from a range of social groups. Interactions between personality traits and the direction of income comparisons lead to different levels of subjective well-being. This highlights the importance of collecting information on personality traits in research on subjective well-being. We conclude that questions about self-defined individual income comparisons can be a valuable and straightforward addition to future surveys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477–503
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number2
Early online date1 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Income comparisons
  • Reference groups
  • Subjective well-being

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