We are All Behavioral, More or Less: Measuring and Using Consumer-Level Behavioral Sufficient Statistics
98 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019 Last revised: 29 Apr 2020
Date Written: 2019-02-22
Can a behavioral sufficient statistic empirically capture cross-consumer variation in behavioral tendencies and help identify whether behavioral biases, taken together, are linked to material consumer welfare losses? Our answer is yes. We construct simple consumer-level behavioral sufficient statisticsâ€”â€œB-countsâ€�â€”by eliciting seventeen potential sources of behavioral biases per person, in a nationally representative panel, in two separate rounds nearly three years apart. B-counts aggregate information on behavioral biases within-person. Nearly all consumers exhibit multiple biases, in patterns assumed by behavioral sufficient statistic models (a la Chetty), and with substantial variation across people. B-counts are stable within-consumer over time, and that stability helps to address measurement error when using B-counts to model the relationship between biases, decision utility, and experienced utility. Conditional on classical inputsâ€”risk aversion and patience, life-cycle factors and other demographics, cognitive and non-cognitive skills, and financial resourcesâ€”B-counts strongly negatively correlate with both objective and subjective aspects of experienced utility. The results hold in much lower-dimensional models employing â€œSparsity B-countsâ€� based on bias subsets (a la Gabaix) and/or fewer covariates, illuminating lower-cost ways to use behavioral sufficient statistics to help capture the combined influence of multiple behavioral biases for a wide range of research questions and applications.
Keywords: behavioral bias, consumer spending
JEL Classification: C83, D1, D6, D9, E7, G4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation