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Lifecycle Consumption Plans, Social Learning and External Habits: Experimental Evidence

  • John Duffy
  • Enrica Carbone

We report results from a laboratory experiment exploring the extent to which individuals can solve a deterministic, intertemporal lifecycle consumption optimization problem. The environment we study has a positive interest rate on savings and no discounting implying that the optimal consumption path should be linearly increasing over time, i.e., agents maximize their lifecycle payoff by smoothing their consumption over time. In addition to studying the individual intertemporal consumption/savings problem, we explore the role played by social information regarding the consumption/savings decisions of other, homogeneously endowed agents as well as the role played by an external habit formation specification for preferences. We find that subjects are generally closest to the conditionally optimal consumption path when they do not have access to social information on the consumption decisions made by other, similarly situated subjects or when social concerns (external habits) are explicitly incorporated into their utility functions.

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Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 513.

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Date of creation: Sep 2013
Date of revision: Sep 2013
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:513
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  1. Feltovich, Nick & Ejebu, Ourega-Zoé, 2014. "Do positional goods inhibit saving? Evidence from a life-cycle experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PB), pages 440-454.
  2. Enrica Carbone, 2006. "Understanding intertemporal choices," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(8), pages 889-898.
  3. Andrew B. Abel, 1990. "Asset Prices under Habit Formation and Catching up with the Joneses," NBER Working Papers 3279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hey, John D & Dardanoni, Valentino, 1987. "Optimal Consumption under Uncertainty: An Experimental Investigation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(390), pages 105-16, Supplemen.
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  8. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899. "The Theory of the Leisure Class," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1899.
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  10. Alexander L. Brown & Zhikang Eric Chua & Colin F. Camerer, 2009. "Learning and Visceral Temptation in Dynamic Saving Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 197-231.
  11. T. Parker Ballinger & Michael G. Palumbo & Nathaniel T. Wilcox, 2003. "Precautionary saving and social learning across generations: an experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 920-947, October.
  12. T. Ballinger & Eric Hudson & Leonie Karkoviata & Nathaniel Wilcox, 2011. "Saving behavior and cognitive abilities," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 349-374, September.
  13. Meissner, Thomas, 2014. "Intertemporal Consumption and Debt Aversion: An Experimental Study," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100522, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  14. Milton Friedman, 1957. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis," NBER Chapters, in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 20-37 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Enrica Carbone & John D. Hey, 2004. "The effect of unemployment on consumption: an experimental analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 660-683, 07.
  16. Thorstein Veblen, 1899. "Mr. Cummings's Strictures on "The Theory of the Leisure Class"," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8, pages 106.
  17. Loretti I. Dobrescu & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Alberto F. Motta, 2008. "Why Aren't Developed Countries Saving?," NBER Working Papers 14580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
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