Costly Superstitious Beliefs: Experimental Evidence
28 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019
Date Written: March 23, 2018
Expectant parents experience a variety of emotions, including joy, anticipation as well as anxiety and fear related to the health of the fetus, the delivery and the newborn. These sources of uncertainty and stress render expectant mothers susceptible to the influence of popular beliefs. We design an experiment to evaluate the widespread Israeli belief that a baby’s room should remain unfurnished until after the baby is born. We test the impact of this belief on the economic decisions of pregnant Jewish women in Israel. Our findings show that many pregnant women, especially in the second half of pregnancy, prefer to avoid challenging popular beliefs – even at a financial cost. The negative affective consequences of “tempting fate” lead to a preference for a small monetary amount over new furniture for the newborn. The strength of popular beliefs and its influence on individual choice vary in accordance with ethnic origin and degree of religiosity.
Keywords: experimental economics, individual choice, pregnancy, popular beliefs, superstition, repugnance
JEL Classification: C90, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation