Economic Decision-making in Poverty Depletes Behavioral Control
Economic theory and common sense suggest that time preference can cause or per- petuate poverty. Might poverty also or instead cause impatient or impulsive behavior? This paper reports a randomized lab experiment and a partially randomized field ex- periment, both in India, and analysis of the American Time Use Survey. In all three studies, poverty is associated with diminished behavioral control. The primary contri- bution is to isolate the direction of causality from poverty to behavior; three theoretical mechanisms from psychology cannot be deffinitively separated. One supported expla- nation is that poverty, by making economic decision-making more difficult for the poor, depletes cognitive control.
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