Behavioral Economics, Development Economics, Experimental Methods
Unethical behavior such as dishonesty, cheating and corruption occurs frequently in organizations or groups. Recent experimental evidence suggests that there is a stronger inclination to behave immorally in groups than individually. We ask if this is the case, and if so, why. Using a parsimonious laboratory setup, we study how individual behavior changes when deciding as a group member. We observe a strong dishonesty shift. This shift is mainly driven by communication within groups and turns out to be independent of whether group members face payoff commonality or not (i.e. whether other group members benefit from one’s lie). Group members come up with and exchange more arguments for being dishonest than for complying with the norm of honesty. Thereby, group membership shifts the perception of the validity of the honesty norm and of its distribution in the population.
Coverage (selected): International Business Times, Public Management (December 2017, p.19), Analytics Magazine, PsychCentral, ScienceDaily, Harvard Business Manager (January 2018, pp. 18-19, in German), WirtschaftsWoche (13/2018, pp.84-87, in German), Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell (2/2018, pp.9-12, in German) Deutschlandfunk Nova (radio interview, in German), NZZ (in German), SZ (in German), Haufe (in German), Creditreform (in German), Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (in German), Welt kmpkt (in German), alltagsforschung.de (in German), Latest Thinking (interview with Simeon Schudy)
Cash in Hand and Saving Decisions, CESifo Working Paper 7767, R&R
Cash is an important means of transaction, generally assumed to be fully fungible. However, both behavioral economics and consumer research have identified instances in which spending behavior is influenced by ‘cash in hand’. The process of physically holding on to cash and then handing it away, appears to affect purchasing decisions. This paper studies how cash in hand influences decisions in a different but very important domain: savings and in particular savings deposits. Savings accounts are a promising tool for reducing poverty, but the use of savings accounts is often puzzlingly low. Holding on to cash that needs to be physically deposited into a savings account may increase the psychological costs of saving. This study experimentally identifies the causal effect of cash in hand on savings deposits of a relevant and poor population, microfinance clients in the Philippines. In contrast to many laboratory and several field studies with similar interventions that investigate spending behavior, I do not find reduced savings deposits with cash in hand. Cash itself does not appear to distort savings decisions. I discuss reasons for and consequence of this surprising finding, in particular for developing economics where lots of transactions are still cash-based.
SABE/IAREP/Elsevier Best PhD Student Paper 2018
Flexible repayment schedules allow borrowers to invest in profitable yet risky projects, but practitioners fear they erode repayment morale. We study repayment choices in rigid and flexible loan contracts that allow discretion in repayment timing. To separate strategic repayment choices from repayment capacity given income shocks, we conduct a lab-in-the-field experiment with microcredit borrowers in the Philippines. Our design allows us to observe social pressure, which is considered both central to group lending, and excessive in practice. In our rigid benchmark contract, repayment is much higher than predicted under simple payoff maximization. Flexibility reduces high social pressure, but comes at the cost of reduced loan repayment. We present theoretical and empirical evidence consistent with a strong social norm for repayment, which is weakened by the introduction of flexibility. Our results imply that cooperative behavior determined by social norms may erode if the applicability of these norms is not straightforward.
Work in Progress
We theoretically and experimentally study how the introduction of a credit registry affects investment and repayment decisions of borrowers. Information sharing between lenders can affect repayment rates via two mechanisms, i) better screening by lenders and ii) an additional incentive for borrowers to repay. In contrast to most previous studies, we can exclude selection effect and potential changes in the borrower pool and cleanly identify the incentive effect of information sharing on borrowers. We conduct an information campaign with 6,000 microfinance clients to exogenously vary the knowledge of the credit registry and possible consequences for borrowers. Our design allows identifying both the effects on ex-ante moral hazard (project and effort choice) and ex-post moral hazard (repayment performance).