Life Satisfaction in China and Consumption and Income Inequalities

Published in: Review of Economics of the Household [Epub July 2017]. doi: 10.1007/s11150-017-9386-9

Posted on RAND.org on December 19, 2017

by Xiaoyan Lei, Yan Shen, James P. Smith, Guangsu Zhou

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This research uses nationally representative data to study how economic resources and inequalities are associated with life satisfaction of Chinese residents. We construct economic resource and inequality measures from expenditure rather than from income, after confirming that expenditure inequality is a better measure in the Chinese context. We find that economic inequalities in general are negatively associated with life satisfaction, and that this association is larger for inequalities in the lower half of the distribution than those in the upper half of the distribution. We further explore the mechanisms under which inequality can be associated with life satisfaction, and find that aspiration is potentially one important channel.

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