Work in progress

  • Do People Distinguish Income from Wealth Inequality? Evidence from the Netherlands with Thomas Douenne and Oda Sund, World Inequality Lab working paper 2024/15.
    [.pdf]     Abstract
    In most countries, wealth inequality is much higher than income inequality, spurring debates about wealth taxation. However, it is unclear if voters are aware of these differences. In a large- scale survey experiment among a representative Dutch population (N=4,501), we study voters’ perceptions of income and wealth distributions, and connect their views to administrative data about their own income and wealth. Despite a primer on the definition of income and wealth, respondents underestimate the difference between the top 10% share of income and wealth by a factor of 10. Moreover, they use information about the income distribution to make predictions about the wealth distribution and vice versa, even when information about both is provided, further demonstrating confusion about the two types of inequality. An information intervention about actual inequality levels and personal ranks in the income/wealth distribution has an impact on the perceived inequality and perceived fairness of inequality, but little effect on policy preferences. We discuss implications for political debates about inequality and wealth taxation.

  • Correcting Consumer Misperceptions about CO2 Emissions with Taisuke Imai, Davide D. Pace and Peter Schwardmann, CESifo working paper 10138.
    [.pdf]     Abstract
    Policy makers put great emphasis on the role of information about carbon emissions in achieving sustainable decisions by consumers. We conduct two studies to understand the optimal targeting of such information and its effects. First, we conduct an incentivized and representative survey among US consumers (N = 1,022) to investigate awareness of climate impact and willingness to mitigate it. We find a large variation in the perceptions of the carbon emissions of different consumption behaviors, with an overall tendency to underestimate these emissions. We also find a positive but highly concave willingness to mitigate climate impact. We combine elicited misperceptions and willingness to mitigate in a structural model that delivers sharp predictions about where to best target information campaigns. In an experiment with actual consumption decisions (N = 2,081), we then test for the effect of CO2 information on the demand for beef, a product predicted to be a productive target for information. Correcting misperceptions has no effect on the demand for beef, both in absolute terms and compared to a predictably less productive target of information, i.e. the demand for poultry. Our dataset allows us to hone in on the underlying reason for this null effect.

  • Uncertainty about Carbon Impact and the Willingness to Avoid CO2 Emissions, with Taisuke Imai, Davide D. Pace and Peter Schwardmann, CRC working paper no. 470. (Revision requested at Nature Climate Change).
    [.pdf]     Abstract
    With a large representative survey (N = 1, 128), we document that consumers are very uncertain about the emissions associated with various actions, which may affect their willingness to reduce their carbon footprint. We experimentally test two channels for the behavioural impact of such uncertainty, namely risk aversion about the impact of mitigating actions and the formation of motivated beliefs about this impact. In two large online experiments (N = 2,219), participants make incentivized trade-offs between personal gain and (uncertain) carbon impact. We find no evidence that uncertainty affects individual climate change mitigation efforts through risk aversion or motivated belief channels. The results suggest that reducing consumer uncertainty through information campaigns is not a policy panacea and that communicating scientific uncertainty around climate impact need not backfire..
    Superseded Tinbergen Working paper 059/2020 here.

  • Top Down or Bottom-Up? Disentangling the Channels of Attention in Risky Choice, with Alejandro Hirmas and Jan Engelmann, Tinbergen Institute Discussion paper 21-031.
    [.pdf]     Abstract
    Economists have become increasingly interested in using attention to explain behavioral patterns both on the micro and macro level. This has resulted in several disparate theoretical approaches. Some, like rational inattention, assume a “top-down” model of executive optimization. Others, like salience theory, assume a “bottom-up” influence where attention is driven by contextual factors. This distinction is fundamental for the economic implications of attention, but so far there is little understanding of their relative importance. We propose a multi-attribute random utility model that unifies prior theoretical approaches by distinguishing between the impact of top-down and bottom-up attention. We accomplish this by separating agent-specific and decision specific variation in attention and verify our framework in an eye-tracking experiment on risky choice. We find that both top-down and bottom-up attention are connected to important choice variables: both are associated with the weighting of the attributes of choice options, while top-down attention is additionally associated with measures of loss aversion. We discuss the insights regarding the nature of attention and its role in economic theory.

Eternal working papers

(Unless you have an idea to lift this to a new level)

  • Inconvenient truths: determinants of strategic ignorance in moral dilemmas, SSRN working paper.
    [.pdf]     Abstract
    People often have incomplete information about the consequences of their actions for the payoffs of others. In an experimental allocation game I investigate how the choice to learn about such consequences depends on the costs and benefits of altruistic actions. The results show an asymmetric pattern: while the size of others’ potential benefit has little effect, ignorance and selfish behavior go up when information is more `inconvenient’, i.e. the fair/efficient alternative is more costly to the decision maker. Thus, in situations of payoff uncertainty, subsidizing fair choices affects prosocial behavior both directly and by increasing the willingness to confront negative consequences of one’s actions.