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The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets

  • M. Keith Chen

    ()

    (School of Management and Cowles Foundation, Yale University)

Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically associate the future and the present, foster future-oriented behavior. This prediction arises naturally when well-documented effects of language structure are merged with models of intertemporal choice. Empirically, I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese. This holds both across countries and within countries when comparing demographically similar native households. The evidence does not support the most obvious forms of common causation. I discuss implications for theories of intertemporal choice.

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File URL: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cd/d18a/d1820.pdf
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Paper provided by Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 1820.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision: Dec 2012
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1820
Contact details of provider: Postal: Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA
Phone: (203) 432-3702
Fax: (203) 432-6167
Web page: http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/

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Order Information: Postal: Cowles Foundation, Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

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  1. 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.
  2. Börsch-Supan, Axel & Reil-Held, Anette & Rodepeter, Ralf & Schnabel, Reinhold & Winter, Joachim, 2000. "The German Savings Puzzle," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 01-07, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
  3. Martin, Philippe & Rogers, Carol Ann, 1995. "Stabilization Policy, Learning by Doing, and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 1130, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Abigail Barr, 1995. "The missing factor: entrepreneurial networks, enterprises and economic growth in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 1995-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  5. James M. Poterba, 1994. "Introduction to "International Comparisons of Household Saving"," NBER Chapters, in: International Comparisons of Household Saving, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert J. Barro, 2013. "Inflation and Economic Growth," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(1), pages 121-144, May.
  7. Xavier Sala-I-Martin, 1997. "Transfers, Social Safety Nets, and Economic Growth," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(1), pages 81-102, March.
  8. Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F. & Wise, David A., 1995. "Do 401(k) contributions crowd out other personal saving?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 1-32, September.
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