Pay referents and satisfaction with pay: Does occupational proximity matter?

Yannis Georgellis, Stephen M. Garcia, Andros Gregoriou, Mustafa Ozbilgin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore whether employees compare their pay to the pay of others in a similarly prestigious occupation, and, if so, whether this comparison has a negative impact on pay satisfaction. Using an experimental vignette methodology, Study 1 found that people are more inclined to compare to others from a similar or identical occupation and that comparison negatively impacts pay satisfaction. This comparison and its negative effect is particularly strong in high prestige occupations. Based on survey data, Study 2 also showed that the average pay of others in occupations of similar prestige is negatively correlated with employees’ pay satisfaction. This negative correlation was also stronger in higher prestige occupations. Our analysis highlights the importance of occupational prestige as a main factor influencing pay comparison
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-592
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Authors. British Journal of Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Academy of Management. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 MainStreet, Malden, MA, 02148, USA. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivsLicense, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


  • Pay referents
  • pay satisfaction
  • social comparison
  • occupational prestige


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