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Guiltily Indebted? How a Word Can Affect Individual Borrowing


  • Tamara Bogatzki
  • David Stadelmann
  • Benno Torgler


Using World Values Survey data, we show that individuals whose primary language uses the same word for (financial) debt and (moral) guilt have a statistically significant and economically relevant lower probability of borrowing money. This relation holds even when we control for a large array of covariates, fixed effects, grammatical future tense reference, and Germanic language family.

Suggested Citation

  • Tamara Bogatzki & David Stadelmann & Benno Torgler, 2019. "Guiltily Indebted? How a Word Can Affect Individual Borrowing," CREMA Working Paper Series 2019-03, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  • Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2019-03

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Katherine Farrow & Gilles Grolleau & Naoufel Mzoughi, 2018. "What in the Word! The Scope for the Effect of Word Choice on Economic Behavior," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(4), pages 557-580, November.
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2011. "How Many Languages Do We Need? The Economics of Linguistic Diversity," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9481, March.
    3. Horst Feldmann, 2019. "Do Linguistic Structures Affect Human Capital? The Case of Pronoun Drop," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 72(1), pages 29-54, February.
    4. M. Keith Chen, 2013. "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 690-731, April.
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    More about this item


    economics of language; debts; borrowing; behaviour;

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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