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How Do Behavioral Assumptions Affect Structural Inference? Evidence from a Laboratory Experiment

  • Houser, Daniel
  • Winter, Joachim

We use laboratory experiments to investigate the effect that assuming rational expectations has on structural inference in a dynamic discrete decision problem. Our design induces preferences up to the subjective rate of time preference, leaving unrestricted both this parameter and subjects' decision rules. We estimate subjects' discount rates under the assumption that all subjects use the rational expectations decision rule, and under weaker behavioral assumptions that allow decision rule heterogeneity. We find that certain sophisticated heuristics fit subjects' decisions statistically significantly better than rational expectations. However, the rational expectations assumption does not distort inferences about the cross-sectional discount rate distribution.

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Article provided by American Statistical Association in its journal Journal of Business and Economic Statistics.

Volume (Year): 22 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 64-79

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Handle: RePEc:bes:jnlbes:v:22:y:2004:i:1:p:64-79
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  1. Cox, James C & Oaxaca, Ronald L, 1999. "Can Supply and Demand Parameters Be Recovered from Data Generated by Market Institutions?," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(3), pages 285-97, July.
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  3. El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. & Grether, David M., 1995. "Are People Bayesian? Uncovering Behavioral Strategies," Working Papers 919, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. repec:att:wimass:9722 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Hotz, V Joseph & Miller, Robert A, 1988. "An Empirical Analysis of Life Cycle Fertility and Female Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 91-118, January.
  7. Harald Uhlig & Martin Lettau, 1999. "Rules of Thumb versus Dynamic Programming," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 148-174, March.
  8. 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.
  9. Hey, John D., 1981. "Are optimal search rules reasonable? and vice versa? (And does it matter anyway?)," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 47-70, March.
  10. Anderlini, Luca & Canning, David, 2001. "Structural Stability Implies Robustness to Bounded Rationality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 101(2), pages 395-422, December.
  11. Krusell, Per & Smith, Anthony Jr., 1996. "Rules of thumb in macroeconomic equilibrium A quantitative analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 527-558, April.
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