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Consumers' Perceptions and Misperceptions of Energy Costs

  • Hunt Allcott
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    This paper presents three initial stylized facts from the Vehicle Ownership and Alternatives Survey (VOAS), a nationally representative survey that elicits consumers' beliefs about gasoline prices and the relative energy costs of autos with different fuel economy ratings. First, American consumers devote little attention to fuel costs when purchasing autos. Second, consistent with a cognitive bias called "MPG Illusion," consumers underestimate the fuel cost differences between low-MPG vehicles and overestimate the differences between high-MPG vehicles. Third, Americans' mean and median expected future gas prices were above current prices and predictions of the futures market at the time of the survey. Although it is often argued that misperceived energy costs justify policies to encourage the sale of energy efficient durable goods, these results show that misperceptions and expectations that differ from market information could either increase or decrease energy efficiency.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.3.98
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    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

    Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 98-104

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:98-104
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    1. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
    2. Robert Jensen, 2010. "The (Perceived) Returns to Education and the Demand for Schooling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 515-548, May.
    3. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2005. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," NBER Working Papers 11755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2013. "A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 116-127.
    5. Anderson, Soren T. & Kellogg, Ryan & Sallee, James M., 2013. "What do consumers believe about future gasoline prices?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 383-403.
    6. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
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