The Value of Social Status
We quantify the value of social status using market prices for Delaware license plates. Delaware plates are numbered sequentially, are private property, and can be legally bequeathed or traded in a secondary market. License plates offer no direct economic benefit other than authorizing the operation of a motor vehicle. But they appear to be a source of social status. Not only do market prices suggest a preference for lower plate numbers, but there exist extreme price jumps that indicate that exclusive clubs exist whereby the number of digits on the plate convey implicit membership. The aggregate value of this market indicates that people purchase status as a significant portion of their consumption bundle. Finally, social status as an asset appears to be uncorrelated with aggregate economic and market conditions.
All correspondence should be addressed to Bruce Carlin. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.