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Visibility Bias in the Transmission of Consumption Beliefs and Undersaving

Bing Han, David Hirshleifer, Johan Walden

NBER Working Paper No. 25566
Issued in February 2019, Revised in June 2019
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing

We model visibility bias in the social transmission of consumption behavior. When consumption is more salient than non-consumption, people perceive that others are consuming heavily, and infer that future prospects are favorable. This increases aggregate consumption in a positive feedback loop. A distinctive implication is that disclosure policy interventions can ameliorate undersaving. In contrast with wealth-signaling models, information asymmetry about wealth reduces overconsumption. The model predicts that saving is influenced by social connectedness, observation biases, and demographic structure; and provides a novel explanation for the dramatic drop in savings rates in the US and several other countries in recent decades.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25566

 
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