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)

Without strong assumptions about how noise manifests in choices, we can infer little about whether there exist underlying common ratio preferences (CRP) given existing empirical observations of the common ratio effect (CRE). To solve this inferential challenge, we propose 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.

Inequality of Opportunity and Income Redistribution [pdf]

(with Marcel Preuss, Germán Reyes and Joy Wu)

This paper examines how people redistribute income when there is uncertainty about the role luck plays in determining opportunities and outcomes. We introduce a portable experimental method that generates exogenous variation in the probability that real workers' earnings are due to luck, while varying whether luck interacts with effort in the earning process. Then, we elicit redistribution decisions from a U.S.-nationally 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. We show that individuals rely on a simple heuristic when assessing the impact of unequal opportunities, which leads them to underappreciate the extent to which small differences in opportunities can have a large impact on outcomes. Our findings have implications for models that seek to understand and predict attitudes toward redistribution, while helping to explain the gap between lab evidence on preferences for redistribution and real-world 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.

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

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

Many safety net program applications result in procedural denials due to the administrative burden associated with applying. We study the effect of an alternative application process for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program designed to alleviate barriers to program access associated with the intake interview. Using a field experiment involving over 60,000 applicants in Los Angeles, we find that access to on-demand interviews expedites approvals and increases overall participation rates: early approvals nearly double and approval rates increase by six percentage points. Our findings highlight the importance of incorporating flexibility into the design of program integrity policies to minimize procedural denials.

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.