The economics of social status

Editor: Ennio Bilancini, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE), Italy; Leonardo Boncinelli, University of Florence, Italy


The economic consequences of status have been a subject of economic inquiry since the seminal work of Veblen. Since then, the theoretical literature on status has grown considerably, and substantial body of empirical evidence has been provided confirming that people do care about their relative standing in society.

 When people care about their relative standing in society, different forms of externalities can arise. Status competition can generate negative externalities that lead to severe market inefficiencies. At the same time, status competition can help internalize previously existing externalities, thus potentially resulting beneficial.

Whatever the case, the fact that people have concerns for their relative standing is often relevant to both positive and normative analysis.

 Although now economists generally agree that social status is relevant to economic behavior, several issues regarding the competition for social status and its economic and social consequences are still the object of a lively discussion. A non-exhaustive list of important open questions include: Are status preferences hardwired into human beings or do they arise endogenously from some social game? What are the objects employed in the competition for status?  Are these objects observable or must be inferred somehow? When does status competition allow to internalize externalities? And does it generate further distortions? Is status-seeking behavior good or bad for well-being? And for economic growth? How can policy-makers act in order to mitigate undesired status-effects and to foster desired ones?

 This special issue aims at showcasing the most recent theoretical and empirical analysis about social status attempting to answer the above questions and related topics. We especially welcome insightful commentaries and surveys.

Deadline for Paper Submissions: January 31, 2018

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