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You Are Not Alone: Experimental Evidence on Risk Taking When Social Comparisons Matter

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  • Harald W. Lang

Abstract

We provide experimental evidence that social comparisons affect individual risk taking. In particular, we focus on the case when individuals care about their income-rank. Our model predicts that compared to standard expected utility theory income-rank comparisons lead to less (more) risk taking in case of lotteries with more probability mass on the downside (upside) of the distribution. Evidence shows in line with our predictions that individuals take less risk when lotteries have more probability weight on the downside. However, we do not find an effect for lotteries with more upside probability mass. The effect of social comparisons on risk taking is strongest when the deciding subject and the reference subject are of the same gender.

Suggested Citation

  • Harald W. Lang, 2016. "You Are Not Alone: Experimental Evidence on Risk Taking When Social Comparisons Matter," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2016-12, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpi:wpaper:tax-mpg-rps-2016-12
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social comparisons; individual risk taking; status; portfolio choice; relative income concerns; experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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