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Fungibility, Labels and Consumption

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  • Johannes Abeler

    (University of Nottingham)

  • Felix Marklein

    (University of Bonn)

Abstract

Fungibility of money is a central assumption in the theory of consumer choice: any unit of money is substitutable for another. This implies that the composition of income or wealth is irrelevant for consumption. We find in a field experiment that even in a simple, incentivized setup many subjects do not treat money as fungible. When a label is attached to a part of their budget, subjects change consumption according to the label. A controlled laboratory experiment confirms this result and further shows that subjects with lower cognitive abilities are more likely to violate fungibility. The findings lend support to behavioral models of narrow bracketing and mental accounting. One implication of our result is that in-kind benefits distort consumption more strongly than usually assumed.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Abeler & Felix Marklein, 2010. "Fungibility, Labels and Consumption," Discussion Papers 2010-13, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2010-13
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    Cited by:

    1. Yann Girard & Florian Hett, 2013. "Competitiveness in dynamic group contests: Evidence from combined field and lab data," Working Papers 1303, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, revised 01 Apr 2013.
    2. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2010. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1238-1260, June.
    3. Koch, Alexander K. & Nafziger, Julia, 2016. "Goals and bracketing under mental accounting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 305-351.
    4. Kooreman, Peter & Melenberg, Bertrand & Prast, Henriëtte M. & Vellekoop, Nathanaël, 2013. "Framing Effects in an Employee Savings Scheme: A Non-Parametric Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 7154, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Alexander K. Koch & Julia Nafziger, 2016. "Correlates of Narrow Bracketing," Economics Working Papers 2016-01, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    6. Altmann, Steffen & Traxler, Christian, 2014. "Nudges at the dentist," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 19-38.
    7. Beatty, Timothy K.M. & Blow, Laura & Crossley, Thomas F. & O'Dea, Cormac, 2014. "Cash by any other name? Evidence on labeling from the UK Winter Fuel Payment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 86-96.
    8. Lange, Ian & Moro, Mirko & Rahman, Mohammad, 2014. "Policy Labels and Investment Decision-making," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2014-01, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    9. Abeler, Johannes & Becker, Anke & Falk, Armin, 2014. "Representative evidence on lying costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 96-104.
    10. repec:eee:eecrev:v:98:y:2017:i:c:p:264-281 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Koch, Alexander K. & Nafziger, Julia, 2011. "Goals and Psychological Accounting," IZA Discussion Papers 5802, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Timo Hener, 2013. "Labeling Effects of Child Benefits on Family Savings," ifo Working Paper Series 163, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fungibility; In-kind Benefits; Mental Accounting; Narrow Bracketing; Field Experiment; Laboratory Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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