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Mental Accounting of Public Funds - The Flypaper Effect in the Lab

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  • Hopp, Daniel
  • Becker, Johannes
  • Kriebel, Michael

Abstract

We report evidence from a series of laboratory experiments that focus on mental accounting of 'public funds'. Groups of three players decide upon how much to redistribute within the group. We measure the preference to redistribute when transfers are made either out of individual accounts (the players' own money) or out of a common account (the group's money). Since the common account is dissolved after each round and paid out to individuals, its size should not affect the decision to redistribute. The experiment is designed to rule out an anchoring effect. We find that the (relative) size of the common account significantly affects redistribution behavior. Specifically, the transfer increases in the relative size of the common account – but only when the transfer is paid out of the common account (and not out of the individual account). We interpret these findings as evidence for a flypaper effect due to mental accounting and discuss implications for tax policy and government spending.

Suggested Citation

  • Hopp, Daniel & Becker, Johannes & Kriebel, Michael, 2018. "Mental Accounting of Public Funds - The Flypaper Effect in the Lab," VfS Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181629, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc18:181629
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    Cited by:

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    2. Luigi Marattin & Tommaso Nannicini & Francesco Porcelli, 2022. "Revenue vs expenditure based fiscal consolidation: the pass-through from federal cuts to local taxes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 29(4), pages 834-872, August.
    3. Tim Krieger & Christine Meemann & Stefan Traub, 2022. "Inequality, Life Expectancy, and the Intragenerational Redistribution Puzzle - Some Experimental Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 9677, CESifo.
    4. David R. Agrawal & Jan K. Brueckner & Marius Brülhart, 2024. "Fiscal Federalism in the 21st Century," CESifo Working Paper Series 10951, CESifo.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    mental accounting; flypaper effect; lab experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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