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Perceived wealth, cognitive sophistication and behavioral inattention

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  • Assenza, Tiziana
  • Cardaci, Alberto
  • Delli Gatti, Domenico

Abstract

By means of a laboratory experiment, we show that, contrary to standard consumer theory, financially equivalent balance sheet profiles may be perceived as non fungible in a controlled frictionless environment with no probabilistic attributes. A large majority of subjects indeed have a bias in the perception of wealth, such that balance sheet composition matters: for a given net worth with values of assets and debt that are financially certain and risk-free, a greater asset-debt ratio implies greater perceived wealth. The predominance of this bias is explained by low cognitive sophistication and great inattention. Moreover, biased subjects are less patient, less debt averse, more likely to increase spending out of unexpected gains and report greater propensities to consume. A standard optimal consumption choice model, enriched with a rational but inattentive agent a la Gabaix (2014, 2019), aligns our key experimental findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Assenza, Tiziana & Cardaci, Alberto & Delli Gatti, Domenico, 2019. "Perceived wealth, cognitive sophistication and behavioral inattention," IMFS Working Paper Series 135, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:imfswp:135
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    perceived wealth; cognitive sophistication; behavioral inattention; laboratory experiment; household debt; consumption;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets
    • G51 - Financial Economics - - Household Finance - - - Household Savings, Borrowing, Debt, and Wealth

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