ESSAYS ON THE ROLE OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE IN BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS
Debnam, Jakina Rian
This dissertation emphasizes the social components of economic behavior, informed by behavioral economics. This dissertation includes three independent research papers. The first of these papers addresses consumer responses to anti-sugar-sweetened beverage legislation and campaigns. Consistent with standard economic theory, others have found that sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes lead to decreased soda consumption once implemented. This paper, however, establishes an additional behavioral response to anti-SSB campaigns and legislation – the tendency of some consumers to increase their consumption of a sanctioned good in the face of excise taxation, or psychological reactance. In support of this tendency I present lab experimental evidence from undergraduates which finds that on average, students drink about two more ounces of soda in the lab after being shown an anti-soda advertisement. I also use Nielsen data from households around New York City and find that following the passage of legislation restricting soda purchases in 2012, but before the implementation of the tax, households increased their weekly purchases of soda. The second paper concerns the interpersonal comparability of subjective well-being (SWB) measures. Popular welfare calculations rely on the assumption that SWB measures capture the same information across persons. This paper uses data collected from an online survey to interrogate this assumption and to examine the relationship between SWB measures and standard notions of utility. The final paper in this dissertation concerns learning and peer effects in social networks. This paper uses a unique set of text and network data from a social network to measure the persuasiveness of peers’ communications among college undergraduates. I use idiosyncratic shocks to students’ information sets to create an instrumental variable and find that while in general, the effect of receiving an additional piece of information about a course is a decrease in the likelihood that a student enrolls in the course, if the message-giver is a peer, the effect of this additional message is up to a 7.4% increase in the likelihood that a student enrolls in that course. This finding is consistent with theories of information aggregation where individuals ‘tag’ information with sources as they incorporate these sources into their final decisions.
Happiness; Paternalism; Soda Taxes; Economics; Agriculture economics; Social Networks; Persuasion; Behavioral Economics
Just, David R.
Benjamin, Daniel; Margolin, Drew
Applied Economics and Management
Ph. D., Applied Economics and Management
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis