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Are Consumers Poorly Informed about Fuel Economy? Evidence from Two Experiments


  • Hunt Allcott
  • Christopher Knittel


It is often asserted that consumers are poorly informed about and inattentive to fuel economy, causing them to buy low-fuel economy vehicles despite their own best interest. This paper presents evidence on this assertion through two experiments providing fuel economy information to new vehicle shoppers. Results show zero statistical or economic effect on average fuel economy of vehicles purchased. In the context of a simple optimal policy model, the estimates suggest that current and proposed US fuel economy standards are significantly more stringent than needed to address the classes of imperfect information and inattention addressed by our interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt Allcott & Christopher Knittel, 2019. "Are Consumers Poorly Informed about Fuel Economy? Evidence from Two Experiments," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 1-37, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:11:y:2019:i:1:p:1-37
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.20170019

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Myers, Erica, 2020. "Asymmetric information in residential rental markets: Implications for the energy efficiency gap," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    2. Brent, Daniel A. & Ward, Michael B., 2018. "Energy efficiency and financial literacy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 181-216.
    3. Reynaert, Mathias & Sallee, James M., 2016. "Who Benefits When Firms Game Corrective Policies?," TSE Working Papers 16-739, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Feb 2018.
    4. Severen, Christopher & Van Benthem, Arthur, 2019. "Formative Experiences and the Price of Gasoline," CEPR Discussion Papers 13859, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Bart J. Bronnenberg & Jean-Pierre Dubé & Robert E. Sanders, 2020. "Consumer Misinformation and the Brand Premium: A Private Label Blind Taste Test," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(2), pages 382-406, March.
    6. Houde, Sebastien & Aldy, Joseph E., 2017. "The Efficiency Consequences of Heterogeneous Behavioral Responses to Energy Fiscal Policies," Working Paper Series rwp17-047, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    7. Bronnenberg, Bart & Dube, Jean-Pierre & Sanders, Robert, 2018. "Consumer Misinformation and the Brand Premium: A Private Label Blind Taste Test," CEPR Discussion Papers 13283, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Mense, Andreas, 2018. "What is the information value of energy efficiency certificates in buildings?," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 10/2018, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    9. Kenneth Gillingham & Sébastien Houde & Arthur A. van Benthem, 2019. "Consumer myopia in vehicle purchases: evidence from a natural experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 7656, CESifo.
    10. Stadelmann, Marcel & Schubert, Renate, 2018. "How Do Different Designs of Energy Labels Influence Purchases of Household Appliances? A Field Study in Switzerland," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 112-123.
    11. Chandrayee Chatterjee & James C. Cox & Michael K. Price & Florian Rundhammer, 2020. "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Understanding How State Tax Credits Impact Charitable Giving," NBER Working Papers 27163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Ghislaine Lang & Bruno Lanz, 2018. "Energy efficiency, information, and the acceptability of rent increases: A survey experiment with tenants," IRENE Working Papers 18-04, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    13. Bart Bronnenberg & Jean-Pierre H. Dubé & Robert E. Sanders, 2018. "Consumer Misinformation and the Brand Premium: A Private Label Blind Taste Test," NBER Working Papers 25214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Matthias Rodemeier & Andreas Löschel, 2020. "The Welfare Effects of Persuasion and Taxation: Theory and Evidence from the Field," CESifo Working Paper Series 8259, CESifo.
    15. Jason Abaluck & Giovanni Compiani, 2020. "A Method to Estimate Discrete Choice Models that is Robust to Consumer Search," NBER Working Papers 26849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Leard, Benjamin, 2018. "Consumer inattention and the demand for vehicle fuel cost savings," Journal of choice modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 1-16.
    17. Ghislaine Lang & Mehdi Farsi & Bruno Lanz & Sylvain Weber, 2020. "Energy efficiency and heating technology investments: Manipulating financial information in a discrete choice experiment," IRENE Working Papers 20-07, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    18. Davide Cerruti & Claudio Daminato & Massimo Filippini, 2019. "The Impact of Policy Awareness: Evidence from Vehicle Choices Response to Fiscal Incentives," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 19/316, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    19. Erica Myers & Steven L. Puller & Jeremy D. West, 2019. "Effects of Mandatory Energy Efficiency Disclosure in Housing Markets," NBER Working Papers 26436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Carley, Sanya & Zirogiannis, Nikolaos & Siddiki, Saba & Duncan, Denvil & Graham, John D., 2019. "Overcoming the shortcomings of U.S. plug-in electric vehicle policies," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 1-1.
    21. Chandrayee Chatterjee & James C. Cox & Michael K. Price & Florian Rundhammer, 2020. "Competition Among Charities: Field Experimental Evidence from a State Income Tax Credit for Charitable Giving," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2020-01, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    22. Alberini, Anna & Di Cosmo, Valeria & Bigano, Andrea, 2019. "How are fuel efficient cars priced? Evidence from eight EU countries," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    23. Bruno Lanz & Evert Reins, 2019. "Asymmetric information on the market for energy efficiency: Insights from the credence goods literature," IRENE Working Papers 19-03, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy


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