Do Positional Goods Inhibit Savings? Evidence from a Life-Cycle Experiment

Nick Feltovich, Ourega Ejebu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate the effect of positional goods (goods for which one's consumption relative to others’ matters) on saving, based on results from a life-cycle consumption/saving experiment. In a Group treatment, we allow inter-personal comparisons by assigning subjects to groups and displaying rankings based partly on consumption. A baseline Individual treatment is similar, but without the additional information. We find more under-saving (saving less than the optimal amount), and lower money earnings for subjects, in the Group treatment. Both effects are economically relevant, with magnitudes of roughly 6–7% of expected income and 7–8% of average earnings respectively. Additional analysis shows that the result is driven by those subjects who are not ranked in the top three in their group (“keeping up with the Joneses”), and males in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-454
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Issue numberB
Early online date4 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Some of this research took place while Feltovich was at University of Aberdeen. Financial support from University of Aberdeen's College of Arts and Social Sciences is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Philip Grossman, Anmol Ratan, Joe Swierzbinski, participants at several conferences and seminars, the guest editors of this special issue, and three anonymous referees for helpful suggestions and comments that have greatly improved the paper.


  • consumption
  • precautionary savings
  • inter-personal comparisons
  • positional goods
  • experiment


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