Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1914379
 
 

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The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets


M. Keith Chen


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; Yale School of Management; Cowles Foundation

December 12, 2012

Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1820

Abstract:     
Languages differ widely in the ways they encode time. I test the hypothesis that languages that grammatically associate the future and the present, foster future-oriented behavior. This prediction arises naturally when well-documented effects of language structure are merged with models of intertemporal choice. Empirically, I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese. This holds both across countries and within countries when comparing demographically similar native households. The evidence does not support the most obvious forms of common causation. I discuss implications for theories of intertemporal choice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: Language, Time preference, Intertemporal choice, Savings behavior, Health, National savings rates, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

JEL Classification: D03, D14, D91, E21, I10

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Date posted: August 22, 2011 ; Last revised: December 13, 2012

Suggested Citation

Chen, M. Keith, The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets (December 12, 2012). Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1820. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1914379 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1914379

Contact Information

Keith Chen (Contact Author)
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )
110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/index.html
Yale School of Management ( email )
135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203-432-6049 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.som.yale.edu/faculty/keith.chen
Cowles Foundation
Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States
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