Working Papers

Distinguishing Common Ratio Preferences from Common Ratio Effects Using Paired Valuation Tasks [pdf] [Online Appendix]

(with Christina McGranaghan, Kirby Nielsen, Ted O'Donoghue and Charles Sprenger)

Conditionally Accepted at American Economic Review

Without strong assumptions about how noise manifests in choices, we can infer little from existing empirical observations of the common ratio effect (CRE) about whether there exists an underlying common ratio preference (CRP). We propose to solve this inferential challenge using paired valuations, which yield valid inference under common assumptions. Using this approach in an online experiment with 900 participants, we find no evidence of a systematic CRP. To reconcile our findings with existing evidence, we present the same participants with paired choice tasks and demonstrate how noise can generate a CRE even for individuals without an associated CRP.

Administrative Burden and Procedural Denials: Experimental Evidence from SNAP [pdf

(with Eric Gianella, Tatiana Homonoff, and Gwen Rino) 

Revise and resubmit at American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

Many government program applications result in procedural denials due to administrative burdens associated with applying. We identify the intake interview as a key barrier to take-up of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and study the effect of an alternative application process designed to reduce burdens.  Using a field experiment involving 65,000 Los Angeles applicants, we find that access to flexible interviews initiated by the applicant increases approvals by six percentage points, doubles early approvals, and increases long-term participation by over two percentage points. Our findings highlight the importance of incorporating flexibility when designing program integrity policies to minimize procedural denials. 

Inequality of Opportunity and Income Redistribution  [pdf]

(with Marcel Preuss, Germán Reyes and Joy Wu)

We examine how people redistribute income when there is uncertainty about the role luck plays in determining opportunities and outcomes. We elicit redistribution decisions from a U.S.-representative sample who observe worker outcomes and whether luck magnified workers' effort (``lucky opportunities'') or determined workers’ income directly (``lucky outcomes''). We find that participants redistribute less and are less reactive to changes in the importance of luck in environments with lucky opportunities. Our findings have implications for models that seek to understand and predict redistribution attitudes and help to explain the gap between lab evidence on support for redistribution and U.S. inequality trends.

Menu-Dependent Risk Attitudes: Theory and Evidence [pdf

(with Zhuo Chen and Russell Golman

We test for a novel pattern of menu-dependent risk attitudes that forms the basis of some recent theories of risky choice: does expanding the range of potential prizes from lotteries in a choice set lead people to overweight those prizes and make riskier choices? Contrary to our hypothesis, we find no evidence of such a menu effect. Varying the potential prize offered by an actuarially unfavorable, high-risk lottery does not affect the likelihood of choosing a different, moderate-risk gamble in favor of a safer alternative. Our well-powered null results cast doubt on prominent theories of menu-dependent risk preferences, but are potentially consistent with either probability weighting or expected utility with heterogeneous risk preferences.

The Curious Case of the Rise in Deflation Expectations [pdf

(with Olivier Armantier,  Giorgio Topa, Gizem Kosar,  Wilbert van der Klaauw, and John C. Williams

We study the behavior of U.S. consumers' inflation expectations during the high inflation period of 2021-22 using data from the Survey of Consumers Expectations. Short- and, to a lesser extent, medium-term inflation expectations rose as inflation surged in 2021. Disagreement and uncertainty about future inflation increased significantly. Then, in 2022, even as inflation continued to climb, medium- and longer-term inflation expectations unexpectedly fell and medium- and longer-term deflation expectations increased. We find that respondents with deflation expectations tend to expect prices to mean revert and are more optimistic about the economic outlook. 

Research Publications

Range-Dependent Attribute Weighting in Consumer Choice: An Experimental Test

Econometrica, 2022, 90(2): 799830.

Program Recertification Costs: Evidence from SNAP  (with Tatiana Homonoff)

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2021, 13(4): 271–298.

Quantifying Brand Loyalty: Evidence from the Cigarette Market  (with Philip DeCicca, Donald S. Kenkel and Feng Liu)  [nber wp]

Journal of Health Economics, 2021, 76: 102512

Consumers' Ability to Identify a Surplus When Returns to Attributes are Nonlinear (with Pete Lunn)

Judgement and Decision Making, 2021, 16(5):1186–1220

Modeling Risk Aversion in Economics (with Ted O'Donoghue)

Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2018, 32(2): 10-25.

Can Chocolate Cure Blindness? Investigating the Effect of Preference Strength and Incentives on the Incidence of Choice Blindness (with Feidhlim McGowan)

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 2016, 61(4): 1-11.

Choice Blindness in Financial Decision Making (with Owen McLaughlin)   

Judgement and Decision Making, 2013, 8(5): 561-572.