Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

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

57 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 13 Dec 2012

M. Keith Chen

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: December 12, 2012

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.

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

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

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1914379 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1914379

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

Paper statistics

Downloads
1,346
Rank
10,938
Abstract Views
5,440