The Joneses are Broke: Media Narratives and Consumption | Job Market Paper | coming soon
Abstract: Using a large-scale online experiment with more than 8,000 U.S. respondents, we examine how the demand for a politics newsletter changes when the newsletter content is fact-checked. We first document an overall muted demand for fact-checking when the newsletter features stories from an ideologically aligned source, even though fact-checking increases the perceived accuracy of the newsletter. The average impact of fact-checking masks substantial heterogeneity by ideology: fact-checking reduces demand among respondents with strong ideological views and increases demand among ideologically moderate respondents. Furthermore, fact-checking increases demand among all respondents when the newsletter features stories from an ideologically non-aligned source.
Abstract: Drawing on representative samples of the U.S. population with almost 12,000 respondents in total, we measure and experimentally vary people's beliefs about the informativeness of news articles. Inconsistent with the desire for more information being the dominant motive for people's news consumption, treated respondents who think that a newspaper is less likely to suppress information reduce their demand for news from this outlet. This finding suggests that people have other motives to read news that sometimes conflict with their desire for more information. We discuss the implications of our findings for the regulation of media markets.
Abstract: We document individual willingness to fight climate change and its behavioral determinants in a large representative sample of US adults. Willingness to fight climate change – as measured through an incentivized donation decision – is highly heterogeneous across the population. Individual beliefs about social norms, economic preferences such as patience and altruism, as well as universal moral values positively predict climate preferences. Moreover, we document systematic misperceptions of prevalent social norms. Respondents vastly underestimate the prevalence of climate-friendly behaviors and norms among their fellow citizens. Providing respondents with correct information causally raises individual willingness to fight climate change as well as individual support for climate policies. The effects are strongest for individuals who are skeptical about the existence and threat of global warming.
Abstract: Standard consumption utility is linked in time to a consumption event, whereas the timing of prosocial utility flows is ambiguous. Prosocial utility may depend on the actual utility consequences for others – it is consequence-dated – or it may be related to the act of giving and is thus choice-dated. Even though most prosocial decisions involve intertemporal trade-offs, existing models of other-regarding preferences abstract from the time signature of utility flows, limiting their explanatory scope. Building on a canonical intertemporal choice framework, we characterize the behavioral implications of the time structure of prosocial utility. We conduct a high-stakes donation experiment that allows us to identify non-parametrically and calibrate structurally the different motives from their unique time profiles. We find that the universe of our choice data can only be explained by a combination of choice- and consequence-dated prosocial utility. Both motives are pervasive and negatively correlated at the individual level.