This paper attempts to test the hypothesis that utility depends on income relative to a ‘comparison’ or reference level. Using data on 5,000 British workers, it provides two findings. First, workers’ reported satisfaction levels are shown to be inversely related to their comparison wage rates. Second, holding income constant, satisfaction levels are shown to be strongly declining in the level of education. More generally, the paper tries to help begin the task of constructing an economics of job satisfaction.
Clark, A. E., &Oswald, A. J. (1996). Satisfaction and comparison income. Journal of public economics, 61(3), 359-381.