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Social comparisons and inequality – Perceptions of inequality through social comparisons and transference on subjective wellbeing: a micro perspective on reference groups

Research domain:
Fostering sustainable rural livelihoods in the age of migration

Project duration:
01.01.2019 - 30.06.2023

A person may have a perception of inequality when comparing his/her living conditions with those of others. Thus, social comparisons are the link between inequality and subjective wellbeing. However, at present there is little evidence regarding the delineation of the exact reference group of people for social comparisons. Therefore, we develop a survey instrument, which methodologically accurately defines individual reference groups. We adapt the name generator (an empirically proven instrument from the area of sociology) to create individualized reference groups, which will be assessed against standard reference categories by employing regression analysis relating to subjective wellbeing. Moreover, individual inequality measures will be tested against objective and other subjective measures of inequality. We choose Thailand as the case study because, as an emerging economy, Thailand is plagued by severe forms of inequality. Furthermore, Thai society is highly collectivistic. Everything is mediated through the eyes of one’s peers. Thus, Thailand is ideal for investigating the composition of individual reference groups within the inequality-wellbeing nexus.


  • Prof. Dr. Laura Camfield, University of East Anglia, UK Website
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Herzfeld, IAMO, Germany Website
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Kirk, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany Website
  • Dr. Mathias Kloss, external researcher, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Nuchanata Mungkung, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand Website