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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers and Publications by Gautam Rao

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May 2017Status Goods: Experimental Evidence from Platinum Credit Cards
with Leonardo Bursztyn, Bruno Ferman, Stefano Fiorin, Martin Kanz: w23414
This paper provides novel field-experimental evidence on status goods. We work with an Indonesian bank that markets platinum credit cards to high-income customers. In a first experiment, we show that demand for the platinum card greatly exceeds demand for a nondescript control product with identical benefits, suggesting demand for the pure status aspect of the card. Transaction data reveal that platinum cards are more likely to be used in social contexts, implying social image motivations. Combining price variation with information on the use of the card sheds light on the magnitude of the demand for social status. In a second experiment, we provide evidence of positional externalities from the consumption of these status goods. The final experiment shows that increasing self-esteem causa...
February 2016Estimating Social Preferences and Gift Exchange at Work
with Stefano DellaVigna, John A. List, Ulrike Malmendier: w22043
We design a model-based field experiment to estimate the nature and magnitude of workers’ social preferences towards their employers. We hire 446 workers for a one-time task. Within worker, we vary (i) piece rates; (ii) whether the work has payoffs only for the worker, or also for the employer; and (iii) the return to the employer. We then introduce a surprise increase or decrease in pay (‘gifts’) from the employer. We find that workers have substantial baseline social preferences towards their employers, even in the absence of repeated-game incentives. Consistent with models of warm glow or social norms, but not of pure altruism, workers exert substantially more effort when their work is consequential to their employer, but are insensitive to the precise return to the employer. Turning to...
January 2014Voting to Tell Others
with Stefano DellaVigna, John A. List, Ulrike Malmendier: w19832
Why do people vote? We argue that social image plays a significant role in explaining turnout: people vote because others will ask. The expectation of being asked motivates turnout if individuals derive pride from telling others that they voted, or feel shame from admitting that they did not vote, provided that lying is costly. We design a field experiment to estimate the effect of social image concerns on voting. In a door-to-door survey about election turnout, we experimentally vary (i) the informational content and use of a flyer pre-announcing the survey, (ii) the duration and payment for the survey, and (iii) the incentives to lie about past voting. Our estimates suggest significant social image concerns. For a plausible range of lying costs, we estimate the monetary value of voting `...
February 2013The Importance of Being Marginal: Gender Differences in Generosity
with Stefano DellaVigna, John A. List, Ulrike Malmendier: w18748
Do men and women have different social preferences? Previous findings are contradictory. We provide a potential explanation using evidence from a field experiment. In a door-to-door solicitation, men and women are equally generous, but women become less generous when it becomes easy to avoid the solicitor. Our structural estimates of the social preference parameters suggest an explanation: women are more likely to be on the margin of giving, partly because of a less dispersed distribution of altruism. We find similar results for the willingness to complete an unpaid survey: women are more likely to be on the margin of participation.

Published: Stefano DellaVigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier & Gautam Rao, 2013. "The Importance of Being Marginal: Gender Differences in Generosity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 586-90, May. citation courtesy of

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