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How do People Respond to Small Probability Events with Large, Negative Consequences?

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  • Martin S. Eichenbaum
  • Miguel Godinho de Matos
  • Francisco Lima
  • Sergio Rebelo
  • Mathias Trabandt

Abstract

We study how people react to small probability events with large negative consequences using the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic as a natural experiment. Our analysis is based on a unique administrative data set with anonymized monthly expenditures at the individual level. We find that older consumers reduced their spending by more than younger consumers in a way that mirrors the age dependency in COVID-19 case-fatality rates. This differential expenditure reduction is much more prominent for high-contact goods than for low-contact goods and more pronounced in periods with high COVID-19 cases. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that people react to the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a way that is consistent with a canonical model of risk taking.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin S. Eichenbaum & Miguel Godinho de Matos & Francisco Lima & Sergio Rebelo & Mathias Trabandt, 2020. "How do People Respond to Small Probability Events with Large, Negative Consequences?," NBER Working Papers 27988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27988
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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Immordino & Tullio Jappelli & Tommaso Oliviero & Alberto Zazzaro, 2021. "Fear of COVID-19 Contagion and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Italian Households," CSEF Working Papers 601, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    2. Gunther Schnabl & Tim Florian Sepp, 2021. "Inflationsziel und Inflationsmessung in der Eurozone im Wandel [Inflation Targeting and Inflation Measurement in the Euro Area in Transition]," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 101(8), pages 615-620, August.
    3. Bruno Carvalho & Susana Peralta & Joao Pereira dos Santos, 2020. "Regional and Sectorial Impacts of the Covid-19 Crisis: Evidence from Electronic Payments," Working Papers ECARES 2020-48, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G51 - Financial Economics - - Household Finance - - - Household Savings, Borrowing, Debt, and Wealth
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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