Discussion Paper

No. 2018-12 | January 29, 2018
Income inequality and saving in a class society: the role of ordinal status
(Published in Special Issue The economics of social status)


This paper examines the impact of income growth and income inequality on household saving rates and payoffs in a non-cooperative game where each player's payoff depends on her present and future consumption and her rank in the present-consumption distribution. The setting is a pooling equilibrium with three clusters of successive income groups, each cluster having its own present-consumption standard and rank in the present-consumption distribution. In this way the analysis addresses the saving behaviour and welfare of three social classes: the lower, middle and upper class. The author finds explanations for the Easterlin paradox and the Kuznets consumption puzzle and concludes that rank concerns tend to weaken the standard effect of inequality on aggregate saving.

JEL Classification:

C72, D31, D62, E21, I31, Z10


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Cite As

Rein Haagsma (2018). Income inequality and saving in a class society: the role of ordinal status. Economics Discussion Papers, No 2018-12, Kiel Institute for the World Economy. http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2018-12

Comments and Questions

Gerasimos Soldatos - article review
January 30, 2018 - 08:49

This is an interesting and nice analytically paper with an appealing interpretation of the Easterlin paradox and the Kuznets consumption puzzle. The conclusion at p. 12 that: “...the lowest payoff growth rate occurs in the lowest income group. Payoff growth rates at the bottom of the social class are ...[more]

... even zero or negative...” is a remarkable one because it captures the fact that most people of low socioeconomic status are not in a position to pursue a higher status is. The author might mention this in a footnote. Moreover, note that since present consumption for these people is a necessity, and since at p. 13: “...the aggregate saving rate increases or decreases, depending on whether the trendsetting income groups see present consumption as a necessity or luxury” and “...saving rates are increasing in income for... the majority of consumers”, it follows that most people are of low socioeconomic status. “Low”, in the sense more or less of Stigliz (2013), and this in turn implies that the paper offers in addition a formal modeling of Stigliz’s arguments against those of Krugman (2013). The author might want to say something about it although the paper deserves merit as it stands.


Krugman, P. (2013). Inequality and recovery. The New York Times, January 20. Retrieved from https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/inequality-and-recovery/

Stiglitz, J.E. (2013). Inequality is holding back the recovery, The New York Times, January 19. Retrieved from https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/