Department Labour Market

Reference groups and job satisfaction

The purpose of this project is to study the role of the reference group in measures of well-being, including job satisfaction in the context of a multicultural country. The definition of the reference group has been found to be important in a number of studies. There is evidence in the literature that relative income, for example, is an important determinant of individual job satisfaction, although this result is dependent on the choice of the reference group. It has been argued that gender differences in job satisfaction and immigrant/native differences in life satisfaction both result from differences in reference groups. A central question in the literature, therefore, is what is the appropriate choice of the reference group, and how does it vary across sub-groups? The high proportions of immigrant and cross-border workers in the Luxembourg labour market and questions included in the LISER survey on working conditions and quality of working life provide a unique opportunity to study the question of the effect of the choice of reference group on job and life satisfaction. The survey includes standard questions regarding self-reported job and life satisfaction, as well as a host of individual and job characteristics, but also questions regarding relative comparisons of pay and job safety.

Contrary to most other studies, our data allow us to know the composition of the reference group (colleagues, workers in Luxembourg, workers in other countries, relatives …) so that we are not limited to pay comparisons. Several research questions will be addressed. First is whether immigrant and cross-border workers have different reference groups, for income and/or job safety comparisons, than do Luxembourg nationals. We will see if this potential difference changes with the time spent in the Luxembourg labor market and if there is a difference in this process between immigrants and cross-border workers. Second is whether job satisfaction levels differ according to nationality or cross-border status, before and after controlling for differences in reference group characteristics. Third is whether individual behavior is consistent with the self-reported reference group results.


HAURET Laetitia, WILLIAMS Donald R.
Journal of Happiness Studies, 2019, vol. 20, n°1, pp. 307-329.
HAURET Laetitia, WILLIAMS Donald R.
LISER, 2018, Working Papers n°2018-02, 24 p.
HAURET Laetitia, WILLIAMS Donald R.
LISER, 2017, Working Papers n°2017-10, 20 p.
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project information
01/10/2013 - 31/12/2017