Status Goods: Experimental Evidence from Platinum Credit Cards

Leonardo Bursztyn, Bruno Ferman, Stefano Fiorin, Martin Kanz, Gautam Rao

NBER Working Paper No. 23414
Issued in May 2017
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

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 causally reduces demand for status goods. We infer that part of the demand for status is psychological in nature, and that social image is a substitute for self-image.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23414

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