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The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets

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  • M. Keith Chen

    ()
    (School of Management and Cowles Foundation, Yale University)

Abstract

Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically associate the future and the present, foster future-oriented behavior. This prediction arises naturally when well-documented effects of language structure are merged with models of intertemporal choice. Empirically, I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese. This holds both across countries and within countries when comparing demographically similar native households. The evidence does not support the most obvious forms of common causation. I discuss implications for theories of intertemporal choice.

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File URL: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cd/d18a/d1820.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 1820.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision: Dec 2012
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1820

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Postal: Cowles Foundation, Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

Related research

Keywords: Language; Time preference; Intertemporal choice; Savings behavior; Health; National savings rates; Sapir-Whorf hypothesis;

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References

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  1. Martin, Philippe & Rogers, Carol Ann, 1997. "Stabilization Policy, Learning-by-Doing, and Economic Growth," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 49(2), pages 152-66, April.
  2. Saul Pleeter & John T. Warner, 2001. "The Personal Discount Rate: Evidence from Military Downsizing Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 33-53, March.
  3. Robert J. Barro, 2013. "Inflation and Economic Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(1), pages 121-144, May.
  4. James M. Poterba, 1994. "Introduction to "International Comparisons of Household Saving"," NBER Chapters, in: International Comparisons of Household Saving, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1996. "Transfers, Social Safety Nets, and Economic Growth," IMF Working Papers 96/40, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F. & Wise, David A., 1995. "Do 401(k) contributions crowd out other personal saving?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 1-32, September.
  7. Abigail Barr, 1995. "The missing factor: entrepreneurial networks, enterprises and economic growth in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 1995-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  8. Börsch-Supan, Axel & Reil-Held, Anette & Rodepeter, Ralf & Schnabel, Reinhold & Winter, Joachim, 2000. "The German Savings Puzzle," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 01-07, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim & Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    • Börsch-Supan, Axel & Reil-Held, Anette & Rodepeter, Ralf & Schnabel, Reinhold & Winter, Joachim, 2000. "The German Savings Puzzle," Discussion Papers 594, Institut fuer Volkswirtschaftslehre und Statistik, Abteilung fuer Volkswirtschaftslehre.
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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Language and savings
    by Inaki Villanueva in Applied economist on 2012-03-15 13:26:00
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Cited by:
  1. Vasiliki Fouka & Joachim Voth, 2012. "Reprisals remembered: German-Greek conflict and car sales during the Euro crisis," Economics Working Papers 1394, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2013.
  2. Astghik Mavisakalyan, 2011. "Gender in Language and Gender in Employment," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2011-563, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.

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