nep-exp New Economics Papers
on Experimental Economics
Issue of 2018‒06‒25
23 papers chosen by
Daniel Houser
George Mason University

  1. Using Ethical Dilemmas to predict Antisocial Choices with Real Payoff Consequences: an Experimental Study By David L. Dickinson; David Masclet
  2. Habit formation, obesity, and cash rewards By Augurzky, Boris; Bauer, Thomas K.; Reichert, Arndt R.; Schmidt, Christoph M.; Tauchmann, Harald
  3. Peers or Police? Detection and Sanctions in the Provision of Public Goods By DeAngelo, Gregory; Gee, Laura Katherine
  4. The other 1%: Class Leavening, Contamination and Voting for Redistribution By Lars Lefgren; David Sims; Olga Stoddard
  5. Stratification Trees for Adaptive Randomization in Randomized Controlled Trials By Max Tabord-Meehan
  6. Altruism and information By Brañas-Garza, Pablo; Bucheli, Marisa; Espinosa, Maria Paz
  7. When Should You Adjust Standard Errors for Clustering? By Abadie, Alberto; Athey, Susan; Imbens, Guido W.; Wooldridge, Jeffrey
  8. Take-up and Targeting: Experimental Evidence from SNAP By Amy Finkelstein; Matthew J. Notowidigdo
  9. Spillovers as a Driver to Reduce Ex-post Inequality Generated by Randomized Experiments: Experiments from an Agricultural Training Intervention By TAKAHASHI, Kazushi; MANO, Yukichi; OTSUKA, Keijiro
  10. Cumulative Impacts of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia By Nur Cahyadi; Rema Hanna; Benjamin A. Olken; Rizal Adi Prima; Elan Satriawan; Ekki Syamsulhakim
  11. What do people ‘learn by looking’ at direct feedback on their energy consumption? Results of a field study in Southern France By Adnane Kendel; Nathalie Lazaric; Kevin Maréchal
  12. Truth Be Told An Experimental Study of Communication and Centralization By Jordi Brandts; David J. Cooper
  13. The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments By Kalla, Joshua; Broockman, David
  14. Leading by Doing: How Female Supervisors Motivate Worker Productivity through Subordinate Scut Work By Ranganathan, Aruna; Shivaram, Ranjitha
  15. Status maximization as a source of fairness in a networked dictator game By Jan E. Snellman; Gerardo I\~niguez; J\'anos Kert\'esz; R. A. Barrio; Kimmo K. Kaski
  16. Locus of Control and Consistent Investment Choices By Pinger, Pia; Schäfer, Sebastian; Schumacher, Heiner
  17. Energy Productivity and Energy Demand: Experimental Evidence from Indian Manufacturing Plants By Nicholas Ryan
  18. Three layers of uncertainty: an experiment By Ilke Aydogan; Loic Berger; Valentina Bosetti; Ning Liu
  19. The ADIS study: A large-scale correspondence test on labor market discrimination in Germany - Technical Report By Veit, Susanne; Yemane, Ruta
  20. Losing prosociality in the quest for talent? Sorting, selection, and productivity in the delivery of public services By Ashraf, Nava; Bandiera, Oriana; Lee, Scott
  21. Beyond "Treatment versus Control": How Bayesian Analysis Makes Factorial Experiments Feasible in Education Research By Daniel Kassler; Ira Nichols-Barrer; Mariel Finucane
  22. Willingness to take risk: The role of risk conception and optimism By Thomas Dohmen; Simone Quercia; Jana Willrodt
  23. Nudges, College Enrollment, and College Persistence: Evidence From a Statewide Experiment in Michigan By Joshua Hyman

  1. By: David L. Dickinson (Appalachian State University, Department of Economics); David Masclet (Univ Rennes, CNRS, CREM - UMR 6211, F-35000 Rennes, France)
    Abstract: Anti-social behaviours are costly to organizations, and the ability to identify predictors of such behaviours can be valuable. In this paper, we used a within-subjects laboratory design to study choices in the well-known (hypothetical) Trolley problem as well as in a real payoff money-burning experiment that can inform our understanding of moral preferences and antisocial behavior. Choices in both environments respond to incentives (i.e., the relative price of the ethical decision). Trolley problem decisions are consistent with previously known results—individuals prefer no action over action, and they prefer to avoid direct over indirect responsibility when negative consequences would be similar in either instance. In analyzing the determinants of anti-social money burning, our data identify money burning due to inequality aversion, but we also find evidence of pure nastiness (burning money of others to increase one’s advantageous inequality). Importantly, we find that willingness to commit ethically dubious acts in the Trolley problem significantly predicts money burning and, more specifically, nastiness. We conclude that choices in hypothetical environments can predict consequential and inefficient antisocial behaviours. Also, utilitarian behaviour in the Trolley dilemma is not linked to antisocial money burning, which contrasts with conclusions in the literature.
    Keywords: experiments, money burning, ethical dilemmas, anti-social behavioral, trolley problem
    JEL: C90 C91 Z10
    Date: 2018–06
  2. By: Augurzky, Boris; Bauer, Thomas K.; Reichert, Arndt R.; Schmidt, Christoph M.; Tauchmann, Harald
    Abstract: This paper examines weight loss and the formation of healthy habits through cash rewards in the context of a multi-phase randomized controlled trial involving 700 obese individuals. We find effects of monetary incentives for weight loss of up to EUR 300 on body weight during all experimental phases, including a period of a year and a half following the exposure to the financial rewards. We also find effects on healthy behavior during this follow-up phase. After the initial incentive period, we additionally provided participants who had lost a substantial amount of weight with monetary rewards of up to EUR 500. These had only short-term effects on body weight and healthy behavior. We argue that our findings are best explained by monetarily incentivized participants having formed healthy habits by the time the experiment ended and that only the speed of the transition to the new (health) equilibrium was affected by the additional rewards. Contrary to the pessimistic perspective presented in earlier empirical research on habit formation, our results suggest that a simple program relying on weight loss rewards can result in long-term health behavioral change.
    Keywords: field experiment,obesity,healthy behavior,habit formation,sustainability,monetary incentives
    JEL: I12 I18 D03 C93
    Date: 2018
  3. By: DeAngelo, Gregory (West Virginia University); Gee, Laura Katherine (Tufts University)
    Abstract: Sanctions are a common method to discourage free-riding in the provision of public goods. However, we can usually only sanction those who are detected performing the bad act of free-riding. There has been considerable research on the type of sanctions imposed, but this research almost always automatically detects everyone's actions and broadcasts them to the group. This is akin to assuming that a group always has a police force or motivated peer reporting to detect and announce the actions of bad actors. However, in many situations bad acts go undetected and unknown to others. We use a lab experiment to compare public good contribution decisions in an environment where we relax the assumption that detection is automated. The common result that sanctions and the likelihood of detection share an inverse relationship continues to be found in our results. However, free-riders are unwilling to pay for detection when sanctioning is conducted at the group level, because a criminal does not want to fund the police who will catch his bad acts. But, when detection is conducted among peers, free-riders are willing to pay to detect other individuals that free-ride.
    Keywords: public goods, punishment, detection, deterrence
    JEL: C72 C91 C92 D7 H41
    Date: 2018–05
  4. By: Lars Lefgren; David Sims; Olga Stoddard
    Abstract: We perform an experiment to measure how changes in the effort exerted by a small fraction of a low-reward group affect the willingness of the high-reward group to vote for redistributive taxation. We find that a substantial fraction of high reward subjects vote in favor of greater redistribution when a very small fraction of high-effort individuals is added to a pool of otherwise low-effort poor. Contaminating a group of high-effort poor with a small number of low-effort individuals causes the most generous rich subjects to vote for less redistribution. These results suggest that anecdotes about the deservedness of a small group of transfer recipients may be effective in changing support for redistribution. We find large gender differences in the results. Relative to men, women respond three times more strongly to the existence of high-effort individuals among the poor. This behavior may help explain gender differences in support for redistribution more generally.
    JEL: D3 H2
    Date: 2018–05
  5. By: Max Tabord-Meehan
    Abstract: This paper proposes a two-stage adaptive randomization procedure for randomized controlled trials. The method uses data from a first-stage pilot experiment to determine how to stratify in a second wave of the experiment, where the objective is to minimize the variance of an estimator for the average treatment effect (ATE). We consider selection from a class of stratified randomization procedures which we call stratification trees: these are procedures whose strata can be represented as decision trees, with differing treatment assignment probabilities across strata. By using the pilot to estimate a stratification tree, we simultaneously select which covariates to use for stratification, how to stratify over these covariates, as well as the assignment probabilities within these strata. Our main result shows that using this randomization procedure with an appropriate estimator results in an asymptotic variance which minimizes the variance bound for estimating the ATE, over an optimal stratification of the covariate space. Moreover, by extending techniques developed in Bugni et al. (2018), the results we present are able to accommodate a large class of assignment mechanisms within strata, including stratified block randomization. We also present extensions of the procedure to the setting of multiple treatments, and to the targeting of subgroup-specific effects. In a simulation study, we find that our method is most effective when the response model exhibits some amount of "sparsity" with respect to the covariates, but can be effective in other contexts as well, as long as the pilot sample size used to estimate the stratification tree is not prohibitively small. We conclude by applying our method to the study in Karlan and Wood (2017), where we estimate a stratification tree using the first wave of their experiment.
    Date: 2018–06
  6. By: Brañas-Garza, Pablo; Bucheli, Marisa; Espinosa, Maria Paz
    Abstract: Experimental literature has accumulated evidence on the association of personal characteristics to a higher or lower level of prosocial behavior. There is also evidence that donations are affected by the mere provision of information about the recipients, whatever its nature or content. In this paper, we present a unified experimental framework to analyze the impact of social class, political orientation and gender on the level of giving; our experimental design allows us to reveal the effect of providing information by itself, with respect to the baseline treatment of no information, and separately from the effect of the informational content. These results could be relevant to any design intended to measure the impact on altruism of different manipulations of the Dictator Game.
    Keywords: economic experiments, information, wealth, gender, ideology, inequity aversion, giving.
    JEL: C91 D64 I30
    Date: 2018–05–30
  7. By: Abadie, Alberto (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Athey, Susan (Stanford University); Imbens, Guido W. (Stanford University); Wooldridge, Jeffrey (Michigan State University)
    Abstract: In empirical work in economics it is common to report standard errors that account for clustering of units. Typically, the motivation given for the clustering adjustments is that unobserved components in outcomes for units within clusters are correlated. However, because correlation may occur across more than one dimension, this motivation makes it difficult to justify why researchers use clustering in some dimensions, such as geographic, but not others, such as age cohorts or gender. It also makes it difficult to explain why one should not cluster with data from a randomized experiment. In this paper, we argue that clustering is in essence a design problem, either a sampling design or an experimental design issue. It is a sampling design issue if sampling follows a two stage process where in the first stage, a subset of clusters were sampled randomly from a population of clusters, while in the second stage, units were sampled randomly from the sampled clusters. In this case the clustering adjustment is justified by the fact that there are clusters in the population that we do not see in the sample. Clustering is an experimental design issue if the assignment is correlated within the clusters. We take the view that this second perspective best fits the typical setting in economics where clustering adjustments are used. This perspective allows us to shed new light on three questions: (i) when should one adjust the standard errors for clustering, (ii) when is the conventional adjustment for clustering appropriate, and (iii) when does the conventional adjustment of the standard errors matter.
    JEL: C14 C21 C52
    Date: 2017–10
  8. By: Amy Finkelstein; Matthew J. Notowidigdo
    Abstract: This paper develops a framework for evaluating the welfare impact of various interventions designed to increase take-up of social safety net programs in the presence of potential behavioral biases. We calibrate the key parameters using a randomized field experiment in which 30,000 elderly individuals not enrolled in – but likely eligible for – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are either provided with information that they are likely eligible, provided with this information and also offered assistance in applying, or are in a “status quo” control group. Only 6 percent of the control group enrolls in SNAP over the next 9 months, compared to 11 percent of the Information Only group and 18 percent of the Information Plus Assistance group. The individuals who apply or enroll in response to either intervention receive lower benefits and are less sick than the average enrollee in the control group. The results are consistent with the existence of optimization frictions that are greater for needier individuals, suggesting that the poor targeting properties of the interventions reduce their welfare gains.
    JEL: C93 H53 I38
    Date: 2018–05
  9. By: TAKAHASHI, Kazushi; MANO, Yukichi; OTSUKA, Keijiro
    Abstract: Randomized experiments ensure equal opportunities but could generate unequal outcomes by treatment status, which is socially costly. This study demonstrates a sequential intervention to conduct impact evaluation and subsequently to mitigate “experiment-driven” inequality. Specifically, control farmers were initially restricted from exchanging information with treated farmers, who received rice management training, to satisfy the stable unit treatment value assumption. We then encouraged information exchange between farmers one year after the training. We found positive training effects, but performance gaps created by our randomized assignment disappeared over time because of information spillovers and, hence, eventually control farmers also benefitted from our experiment.
    Keywords: Inequality, Program evaluation, Randomised experiment, Spillover
    JEL: O12 O13 O31 Q12
    Date: 2018–05
  10. By: Nur Cahyadi; Rema Hanna; Benjamin A. Olken; Rizal Adi Prima; Elan Satriawan; Ekki Syamsulhakim
    Abstract: Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs have spread worldwide, and are designed to promote comprehensive human capital investments in children, starting from encouraging pre-natal and maternal care and early childhood health interventions and continuing through incentivizing school attendance. Yet evaluating these claims over more than a few years is hard, as most CCT experiments extend the program to the control group after a short experimental period. This paper experimentally estimates the impacts of Indonesia’s cash transfer program (PKH) six years after the program launched, using data from about 14,000 households in 360 sub-districts across Indonesia, taking advantage of the fact that treatment and control locations remained largely intact throughout the period. We find that PKH continues to have large static incentive effects on many of the targeted indicators, increasing usage of trained health professionals for childbirth dramatically and halving the share of children age 7-15 who are not enrolled in school. Wage labor for 13-15 year olds was reduced by at least one-third. We also begin to observe impacts on outcomes that may require cumulative investments: for example, six years later, we observe large reductions in stunting and some evidence of increased high school completion rates. The results suggest that CCT investments can have substantial effects on the accumulation of human capital, and that these effects can persist even when programs are operating at large-scale without researcher intervention.
    JEL: I38 O10
    Date: 2018–05
  11. By: Adnane Kendel (GREDEG - Groupe de Recherche en Droit, Economie et Gestion - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UNS - Université Nice Sophia Antipolis - UCA - Université Côte d'Azur); Nathalie Lazaric (GREDEG - Groupe de Recherche en Droit, Economie et Gestion - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UNS - Université Nice Sophia Antipolis - UCA - Université Côte d'Azur); Kevin Maréchal (ULB - Université Libre de Bruxelles [Bruxelles])
    Abstract: The abundant literature on consumer feedback shows that it is an efficient instrument for reducing household energy consumption. However, the reported reductions are strongly dependent on contextual factors and on the type of feedback provided. Given the importance of learning to this respect, this dimension constitutes the core focus of the present study which reports the findings of the TICELEC (i.e. French acronym for information technologies for responsible electricity consumption) project in France. The experiment included a control group (G1: the self-monitoring group) and one equipped group (G2). All participants reduced their consumption and learnt either directly from feedback or indirectly through self-monitoring. The amount of energy savings, which is larger than in similar experiments, can be explained by two factors. First, the specificity of our sample (i.e. high income, high consumption) which allows for potentially large energy savings. Second, high involvement of participants and the building of trust. The quantitative and qualitative dimensions of learning are then discussed. Additionally, we focus on peak-load shifting in G2 with 2 subgroups (G21 and G22). The higher proportion of shifters in G22 and the higher 'quality' of their shifting suggest a higher level of learning enabled by the more sophisticated feedback. Although this translated into only a moderately higher rate of energy savings, the higher degree of absorbed knowledge (i.e. through 'learning by looking through connecting') might lead to a qualitatively distinctive type of energy saving.
    Keywords: feedback,learning,Household energy saving,Residential consumption
    Date: 2017
  12. By: Jordi Brandts; David J. Cooper
    Abstract: We study the tradeoffs between centralized and decentralized management using a new experimental game, the decentralization game. Product types for two divisions are either chosen independently by the divisions (decentralization) or imposed by a central manager (centralization). Centralization makes it easier to coordinate the divisions’ product types but more difficult to take advantage of the divisions’ private information. We find that total surplus is highest when centralization is combined with free-form chat between the three players. This high performance occurs because divisions almost never lie about their private information, yielding unambiguous transmission of information from divisions to the central manager.
    Keywords: Coordination, experiments, Organizations, asymmetric Information
    JEL: C92 D23 J31 L23 M52
    Date: 2018–06
  13. By: Kalla, Joshua (University of California, Berkeley); Broockman, David (Stanford University)
    Abstract: Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans' candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans' candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These experiments' average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately--although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens' judgments.
    Date: 2017–09
  14. By: Ranganathan, Aruna (Stanford University); Shivaram, Ranjitha (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
    Abstract: Using ethnographic, personnel, and field experimental data from an Indian garment factory, this paper investigates whether manager gender affects worker productivity and if so, how. We argue that female managers motivate greater worker productivity than male managers in female-typed workplaces by performing subordinate scut work--routine tasks of their subordinates--which increases subordinates' engagement with their work. We posit that female managers are more likely to do subordinate scut work in female-typed workplaces and are more effective than male managers when they do, given the female-typing of their subordinates' tasks. Our qualitative data help to generate hypotheses that we test using (a) personnel data on individual worker productivity, where workers experience quasi-random switches between male and female supervisors, and (b) a lab-in-the-field experiment, where we experimentally manipulate supervisors* ability to perform subordinate scut work. This paper contributes to the literature on motivating worker productivity by drawing attention to the important role of manager gender and by studying a female-typed workplace. The paper also contributes to the literature on gender and leadership by investigating objective worker productivity and uncovering subordinate scut work as a novel managerial practice that fosters engagement with work and improves worker productivity.
    Date: 2017–10
  15. By: Jan E. Snellman; Gerardo I\~niguez; J\'anos Kert\'esz; R. A. Barrio; Kimmo K. Kaski
    Abstract: Human behavioural patterns exhibit selfish or competitive, as well as selfless or altruistic tendencies, both of which have demonstrable effects on human social and economic activity. In behavioural economics, such effects have traditionally been illustrated experimentally via simple games like the dictator and ultimatum games. Experiments with these games suggest that, beyond rational economic thinking, human decision-making processes are influenced by social preferences, such as an inclination to fairness. In this study we suggest that the apparent gap between competitive and altruistic human tendencies can be bridged by assuming that people are primarily maximising their status, i.e., a utility function different from simple profit maximisation. To this end we analyse a simple agent-based model, where individuals play the repeated dictator game in a social network they can modify. As model parameters we consider the living costs and the rate at which agents forget infractions by others. We find that individual strategies used in the game vary greatly, from selfish to selfless, and that both of the above parameters determine when individuals form complex and cohesive social networks.
    Date: 2018–06
  16. By: Pinger, Pia (University of Bonn); Schäfer, Sebastian (Goethe University Frankfurt); Schumacher, Heiner (KU Leuven)
    Abstract: We document that an internal locus of control can be hindering in financial market situations, where short-term outcomes are determined by chance. The reason is that internally controlled individuals may tend to (over-)react to random outcomes. Our evidence is based on an experiment in which subjects repeatedly invest in two identical, uncorrelated, risky assets and observe previous outcome realizations. Under mild restrictions, the optimal strategy is to make the same choice in each period. Yet, internals are more likely to make inconsistent risk choices. The effect size of locus of control is comparable with that of cognitive ability. Among inconsistent subjects, average switching behavior is in line with the gambler's fallacy. However, choices of very internally controlled individuals tend to correspond to the hot hand fallacy.
    Keywords: locus of control, risk preferences, investment decisions, cognitive ability
    JEL: D03 G02 C91
    Date: 2018–05
  17. By: Nicholas Ryan
    Abstract: This paper studies a field experiment among energy-intensive Indian manufacturing plants that offered energy consulting to raise energy productivity, the amount plants can produce with each unit of energy. Treatment plants, after two years and relative to the control, run longer hours, demand more skilled labor and use 9.5 percent more electricity (standard error 7.3 percent). I assume that the treatment acted only through energy productivity to estimate the plant production function. The model estimates imply that energy complements skill and capital and that energy demand therefore responds more strongly to a productivity shock when plants can adjust these inputs.
    JEL: D24 O14 Q41
    Date: 2018–05
  18. By: Ilke Aydogan; Loic Berger; Valentina Bosetti; Ning Liu
    Abstract: We experimentally explore decision-making under uncertainty using a framework that decomposes uncertainty into three distinct layers: (1) physical uncertainty, entailing inherent randomness within a given probability model, (2) model uncertainty, entailing subjective uncertainty about the probability model to be used and (3) model misspecification, entailing uncertainty about the presence of the true probability model among the set of models considered. Using a new experimental design, we measure individual attitudes towards these different layers of uncertainty and study the distinct role of each of them in characterizing ambiguity attitudes. In addition to providing new insights into the underlying processes behind ambiguity aversion -failure to reduce compound probabilities or distinct attitudes towards unknown probabilities- our study provides the first empirical evidence for the intermediate role of model misspecification between model uncertainty and Ellsberg in decision-making under uncertainty.Keywords: Ambiguity aversion, reduction of compound lotteries, non-expected utility, model uncertainty, model misspecification JEL Classification: D81
    Date: 2018
  19. By: Veit, Susanne; Yemane, Ruta
    Abstract: The Arbeitsmarktdiskriminierung "ADIS" project is a large scale correspondence study that was conducted in Germany between October 2014 and April 2016 with the aim to study labor market discrimination against second generation immigrants. In particular, the experiment was designed for two purposes: First, to decompose drivers of ethnic discrimination in the labor market and to understand the role of phenotype, country of origin, and religion in order to explain ethnic hierarchies; and second, to test economic theories of taste-based and statistical discrimination models, in order to explain discriminatory hiring decisions. Previous studies on ethnic labor market discrimination have provided strong evidence of its occurrence, but provide limited insight into the mechanisms behind it and the causes of variation in rates of discrimination against different ethnic, racial, and religious groups. In this report we describe our multidimensional design that tests rates of discrimination across 35 ethnic groups, for which we vary productivity relevant information (such as grades and reference letters) as well as phenotype and religious background of the applicants. The study is based on applications to 7,557 job vacancies with male and female applicants in eight professions across Germany. In this technical report we will discuss our research design in depth and give detailed insight into the implementation of the study and the challenges during data collection, with a main focus on the choice of the individual treatments and how they were operationalized.
    Date: 2018
  20. By: Ashraf, Nava; Bandiera, Oriana; Lee, Scott
    Abstract: We embed a field experiment in a nationwide recruitment drive for nurses in Zambia to test whether career benefits attract talent at the expense of prosocial motivation. We randomize the offer of career benefits at the recruitment stage. In line with common wisdom, treatment attracts less prosocial applicants. However, the trade-off only exists at low levels of talent; the marginal applicants in treatment are more talented and equally pro-social. These are hired, and they perform better at every step of the chain: they deliver more services, promote institutional childbirth, and reduce child malnutrition by 25% in the communities they serve.
    JEL: J1
    Date: 2018–03–03
  21. By: Daniel Kassler; Ira Nichols-Barrer; Mariel Finucane
    Abstract: Researchers often wish to test a large set of related interventions or approaches to implementation. A factorial experiment accomplishes this by examining not only basic treatment-control comparisons but also the effects of multiple implementation factors such as different dosages or implementation strategies, and the interactions between these factor levels.
    Keywords: Bayesian Analysis, Factorial Design, Education, Power Calculations
    JEL: I
  22. By: Thomas Dohmen; Simone Quercia; Jana Willrodt
    Abstract: We show that the disposition to focus on favorable or unfavorable outcomes of risky situations affects willingness to take risk as measured by the general risk question. We demonstrate that this disposition, which we call risk conception, is strongly associated with optimism, a stable facet of personality and that it predicts real-life risk taking. The general risk question captures this disposition alongside pure risk preference. This enlightens why the general risk question is a better predictor of behavior under risk across different domains than measures of pure risk preference. Our results also rationalize why risk taking is related to optimism.
    Keywords: risk taking behavior, optimism, preference measures, risk conception
    JEL: D91 C91 D81 D01
    Date: 2018–06
  23. By: Joshua Hyman (University of Connecticut)
    Abstract: I conduct a statewide experiment in Michigan with nearly 50,000 high-achieving high school seniors. Treated students are mailed a letter encouraging them to consider college and providing them with the web address of a college information website. I find that very high-achieving, poor and minority students are the most likely to navigate to the website. Small changes to letter content have dramatic effects on take-up. For example, highlighting college affordability induces 18 percent more students to the website than highlighting college choice, and 37 percent more than highlighting how to apply to college. Poor students who are mailed the letter experience a 1.4 percentage point increase in the probability that they enroll in college, driven by increases at four-year institutions. Unfortunately, these students tend not to persist through college, leading to an effect only half as large on the probability of enrolling and persisting to the second year of college, and a near zero impact on enrolling and persisting to the third year. These findings highlight the importance of supporting marginal college enrollees through college, and, for researchers, the necessity of examining persistence when evaluating college-going interventions.
    Keywords: college access; college persistence; social experiments; behavioral nudges
    JEL: I2 H4 J23
    Date: 2018–05

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