ICES Occasional Brown Bag for October 29

Events, Seminars | October 21, 2015

Join us for an ICES Occasional Brown Bag Lecture, featuring Jakina Debnam.

Ms. Debnam, of Cornell University, will discuss her paper Examining Responses to Paternalism: Experimental and Empirical Evidence of Consumption Responses to Mayor Bloomberg’s Soda “Ban” (abstract). The talk will take place on Thursday, October 29th, from 12:00 to 1:00pm, in room 5075 of the Metropolitan Building, Arlington campus.

Coffee and dessert will be provided.

Please visit the Brown Bag Schedule to learn more about the Brown Bag series.


By accounting for limited human computational ability, willpower, and rationality within economic models, work in behavioral economics has highlighted the ways in which individuals’ choices may systematically deviate from their own best interest; in so doing it has motivated policymakers to consider any number of paternalistic policies (or “nudges”) to move individuals closer to optimal outcomes. Much work, however, remains to characterize optimal design within this new class of policy instruments and to understand their aggregate impact. Our work considers an underexplored way in which policies can be invasive – we explicitly consider agent psychological responses to the existence of the paternalistic policy itself, as well as to the psychological and economic incentives which have been the focus of previous work. In addition to a general theoretical framework, we present experimental and empirical evidence surrounding the policy debate in and around New York City concerning a proposed ban on the purchase of particular types of sugary drinks, and the attendant public advertising campaign. In a laboratory experiment, we measure the effect of viewing a graphic anti-soda advertisement on the volume of soda participants consume while completing an unrelated task – we find that male participants who viewed anti-soda advertising consume 1 to 2 more ounces of soda than participants who do not view the ad. We then apply a quasi-experimental design to a household panel which includes more than 990,000 household shopping trips to examine changes in households’ consumption bundles following key dates in the policy discussion. We find that on a given trip, holding household-level sociodemographic characteristics constant, households increase their per-trip expenditures on soda in response to advertisements and policy conversations, by more than a dollar in some cases.

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