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Peer effects in risk taking: Envy or conformity?

  • Author(s): Lahno, AM;
  • Serra-Garcia, M
  • et al.

We examine two explanations for peer effects in risk taking: relative payoff concerns and preferences that depend on peer choices. We vary experimentally whether individuals can condition a simple lottery choice on the lottery choice or the lottery allocation of a peer. We find that peer effects increase significantly, almost double, when peers make choices, relative to when they are allocated a lottery. In both situations, imitation is the most frequent form of peer effect. Hence, peer effects in our environment are explained by a combination of relative payoff concerns and preferences that depend on peer choices. Comparative statics analyses and structural estimation results suggest that a norm to conform to the peer may explain why peer choices matter. Our results suggest that peer choices are important in generating peer effects and hence have important implications for modeling as well as for policy.

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