Behavioral Economics, Development Economics, Experimental Methods


Behavioral Economics: Morals and Well-Being

Huber et al. (2023): Competition and moral behavior: A meta-analysis of 45 crowd-sourced experimental designs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120 (23) e2215572120. Download paper
Experimental design choices can lead to substantial variation in estimated effect sizes for the same research question, which limits the generalizability of one single experiment.

Etheridge & Spantig (2022): The gender gap in mental well-being at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic: Evidence from the UK. European Economic Review, 145: 104114. Download paper
Mental well-being of women declined more than men’s in April 2020, which appears to be related to mostly social factors.

Kocher, Schudy & Spantig (2018): I lie? We lie! Why? Experimental evidence on a dishonesty shift in groups. Management Science, 64 (9): 3995-4008. Download paper
Communication in groups makes misreporting in the lab more acceptable.


Development Economics: Financial Decisions and Institutions

Czura, Englmaier, Ho & Spantig (2022): Microfinance loan officers before and during Covid-19: Evidence from India. World Development, 152: 105812. Download paper
Loan officers juggle many different tasks and it becomes more difficult during the first year of the pandemic.

Spantig (2021): Cash in hand and saving decisions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (2021), 188: 1206-1220. Download paper
The tangibility of cash does not influence savings deposits of Filipino microfinance clients.
SABE/IAREP/Elsevier Best PhD Student Paper 2018


Working Papers

Can you spot a scam? Measuring and improving scam identification ability, with Jana Cahlíková, Lucy Kaaria, Elif Kubilay & Eva Raiber. Download CESifo Working Paper. minor revision requested

The recent expansion of digital financial products leads to severe consumer protection issues such as fraud and scams. As these potentially decrease trust in digital services, especially in developing countries, avoiding victimization has become an important policy objective. In an online experiment, we first investigate how well individuals in Kenya identify phone scams using a novel measure of scam identification ability. We then test the effectiveness of scam education, a commonly used approach by banks and institutions for fraud and scam prevention. We find that common tips on how to spot scams do not significantly improve individuals’ scam identification ability, i.e., the distinction of scams from genuine messages. This null effect is driven by an increase in correctly identified scams and a decrease in correctly identified genuine messages. We interpret this as an increase in caution. In addition, we find suggestive evidence that genuine messages which contain scam-like features are more likely to be misclassified, highlighting the importance of a careful design of official communication.

Flexible Microcredit: Effects on Loan Repayment and Social Pressure, with Kristina Czura & Anett John. Download CESifo Working Paper

Recent evidence suggests that more flexible microloan repayment benefits borrowers, but lenders fear diminished repayment morale. We study repayment choices in rigid and flexible loan contracts with discretion in repayment timing. Using a lab-in-the-field experiment with 645 microcredit borrowers in the Philippines, we identify moral hazard and quantify social pressure. Payoff maximization predicts low repayment in our rigid benchmark contract, and increased repayment with flexibility. Results suggest the opposite: Repayment in the rigid contract is high, and drops substantially under flexible repayment. Social pressure decreases. Our results are consistent with a strong social norm for repayment, which is weakened by introducing flexibility. Observed high-repayment equilibria may be sustained by social norms, and may erode with the introduction of flexibility.

Employee performance and mental well-being: The mitigating effects of transformational leadership during crisis, with Kristina Czura, Florian Englmaier & Hoa Ho. Download CESifo Working Paper

The positive role of transformational leadership on productivity and mental well-being has long been established. Transformational leadership behavior may be particularly suited to navigate times of crisis which are characterized by high levels of complexity and uncertainty. We exploit quasi-random assignment of employees to managers and study the role of frontline managers’ leadership styles on employees’ performance, work style, and mental well-being in times of crisis. Using longitudinal administrative data and panel survey data from before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, we find that frontline managers who were perceived as having a more transformational leadership style before the onset of the pandemic, led employees to better performance and mental well-being during the pandemic.

Incentive and signaling effects of bonus payments: An experiment in a company, with Marvin Deversi. Download CESifo Working Paper

Economists and management scholars have argued that the scope of incentives to increase cooperation in organizations is limited as their use signals the prevalence of free-riding among employees. This paper tests this hypothesis experimentally, using a sample of managers and employees from a large company. We exogenously vary whether managers are informed about prevailing cooperation levels among employees before they can set incentives to promote cooperation. In addition, employees matched to informed managers learn that the manager could base their incentive choice on cooperation levels. We find no evidence for the hypothesized signaling effect. Having an informed manager set the incentive does not change employees’ beliefs about the cooperativeness of others. Incentives hence have strong positive effects on cooperative beliefs, irrespective of information. The absence of the signaling effect seems related to the perception of managers’ intentions, a mitigating but understudied factor.


Selected Work in Progress

The Effects of Information Sharing on Moral Hazard in Credit Markets – Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in the Philippines, with Kristina Czura & Matthias Fahn. First draft available on request.

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).

Measuring Individual Preferences for Truth-Telling, with Susanna Grundmann & Simeon Schudy. Funded by Diligentia Foundation for Empirical Research. First draft available on request.
Fraudulent behavior is prevalent in many markets, particularly, when behavior at the individual level is not observable. Results from aggregate analyses of experimental reporting tasks suggest that preferences for truth-telling are heterogeneous and determined by the combination of an intrinsic motivation to be honest and the desire to be seen as honest. However, such aggregate data do not allow us to understand which truth-telling types (co-)exist and how prevalent each type is. We propose a novel reporting paradigm to measure preferences for truth-telling that keeps reports unobservable but still identifies both motives independently at the individual level. We find systematic heterogeneity in preference types and that types are predictive of behavior in situations in which individuals trade off honesty and money. Based on this validated experimental measure, we develop a short survey module that can also capture preference types.

Engaging Learners with Reminders and Deadlines: Evidence from Kenya, with Charlotte Cordes & Andrej Woerner. Funded by Diligentia Foundation for Empirical Research