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To Charge or Not to Charge: Evidence from a Health Products Experiment in Uganda

Author

Listed:
  • Greg Fischer

    () (London School of Economics)

  • Dean Karlan

    () (Economic Growth Center, Yale University)

  • Margaret McConnell

    () (Harvard University)

  • Pia Raffler

    () (Yale University)

Abstract

Pricing policy for any experience good faces a key tradeoff. On the one hand, a price reduction increases immediate demand and hence more people learn about the product. On the other hand, lower prices may serve as price anchors and, through a comparison effect, decrease subsequent demand. This tension is particularly important for the distribution of health products in low-income countries, where free or heavily subsidized distribution is a common but controversial practice. Based on a model combining the learning aspect of experience goods with reference-dependent preferences, we set up a field experiment in Northern Uganda in which three health products differing in their scope for learning were initially offered either for free or for sale at market prices. In line with prior studies, when the product has potential for positive learning, we do not find an effect of free distribution on future demand. However, for products without scope for positive learning, we find evidence of price anchors: future demand is lower after a free distribution than after a distribution at market prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Greg Fischer & Dean Karlan & Margaret McConnell & Pia Raffler, 2014. "To Charge or Not to Charge: Evidence from a Health Products Experiment in Uganda," Working Papers 1041, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:1041
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    Cited by:

    1. Manuela Angelucci & Silvia Prina & Heather Royer & Anya Samek, 2015. "When Incentives Backfire: Spillover Effects in Food Choice," Framed Field Experiments 00444, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Takahashi, Kazushi & Ikegami, Munenobu & Sheahan, Megan & Barrett, Christopher B., 2014. "Quasi-experimental evidence on the drivers of index-based livestock insurance demand in Southern Ethiopia," IDE Discussion Papers 480, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    3. B. Kelsey Jack & Paulina Oliva & Christopher Severen & Elizabeth Walker & Samuel Bell, 2015. "Technology Adoption Under Uncertainty: Take-Up and Subsequent Investment in Zambia," NBER Working Papers 21414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Anja Sautmann & Samuel Brown & Mark Dean, 2016. "Subsidies, Information, and the Timing of Children’s Health Care in Mali," Working Papers 2016-2, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    5. Pascaline Dupas & Edward Miguel, 2016. "Impacts and Determinants of Health Levels in Low-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 22235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    subsidies; health; pricing; learning;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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