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Lifecycle Consumption Plans, Social Learning and External Habits: Experimental Evidence

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  • John Duffy
  • Enrica Carbone

Abstract

We report results from a laboratory experiment exploring the extent to which individuals can solve a deterministic, intertemporal lifecycle consumption optimization problem. The environment we study has a positive interest rate on savings and no discounting implying that the optimal consumption path should be linearly increasing over time, i.e., agents maximize their lifecycle payoff by smoothing their consumption over time. In addition to studying the individual intertemporal consumption/savings problem, we explore the role played by social information regarding the consumption/savings decisions of other, homogeneously endowed agents as well as the role played by an external habit formation specification for preferences. We find that subjects are generally closest to the conditionally optimal consumption path when they do not have access to social information on the consumption decisions made by other, similarly situated subjects or when social concerns (external habits) are explicitly incorporated into their utility functions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 513.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:513

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  1. Cochrane, John H. & Campbell, John, 1999. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Scholarly Articles 3119444, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. A. Abel, 2010. "Asset prices under habit formation and catching up with the Jones," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1395, David K. Levine.
  3. Enrica Carbone & John D. Hey, 2004. "The effect of unemployment on consumption: an experimental analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 660-683, 07.
  4. Fehr, Ernst & Zych, Peter K, 1998. " Do Addicts Behave Rationally?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(3), pages 643-62, September.
  5. T. Ballinger & Eric Hudson & Leonie Karkoviata & Nathaniel Wilcox, 2011. "Saving behavior and cognitive abilities," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 349-374, September.
  6. Alexander L. Brown & Zhikang Eric Chua & Colin F. Camerer, 2009. "Learning and Visceral Temptation in Dynamic Saving Experiments-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 197-231, February.
  7. Enrica Carbone, 2006. "Understanding intertemporal choices," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(8), pages 889-898.
  8. T. Parker Ballinger & Michael G. Palumbo & Nathaniel T. Wilcox, 2003. "Precautionary saving and social learning across generations: an experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 920-947, October.
  9. Hey, John D & Dardanoni, Valentino, 1987. "Optimal Consumption under Uncertainty: An Experimental Investigation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(390), pages 105-16, Supplemen.
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