NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Sandro Ambuehl

Department of Management UTSC
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
105 St. George Street
Toronto, ON, M5S 3E6
CANADA

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of Toronto

NBER Working Papers and Publications

July 2019Projective Paternalism
with B. Douglas Bernheim, Axel Ockenfels: w26119
We study experimentally when, why, and how people intervene in others' choices. Choice Architects (CAs) construct opportunity sets containing bundles of time-indexed payments for Choosers. CAs frequently prevent impatient choices despite opportunities to provide advice, believing Choosers benefit. We consider several hypotheses concerning CAs' motives. A conventional behavioral welfarist acts as a correctly informed social planner; a mistakes-projective paternalist removes options she wishes she could reject when choosing for herself; an ideals-projective paternalist seeks to align others' choices with her own aspirations. Ideals-projective paternalism provides the best explanation for interventions in the laboratory and rationalizes support for actual paternalistic policies.
September 2018Peer Advice on Financial Decisions: A case of the blind leading the blind?
with B. Douglas Bernheim, Fulya Ersoy, Donna Harris: w25034
Previous research shows that many people seek financial advice from non-experts, and that peer interactions influence financial decisions. We investigate whether such influences are beneficial, harmful, or simply haphazard. In our laboratory experiment, face-to-face communication with a randomly assigned peer significantly improves the quality of private decisions, measured by subjects' ability to choose as if they properly understand their opportunity sets. Subjects do not merely mimic those who know better, but also make better private decisions in novel tasks. People with low financial competence experience greater improvements when their partners also exhibit low financial competence. Hence, peer-to-peer communication transmits financial decision-making skills most effectively when pee...
October 2014A Method for Evaluating the Quality of Financial Decision Making, with an Application to Financial Education
with B. Douglas Bernheim, Annamaria Lusardi: w20618
We introduce a method for measuring the quality of financial decisions built around a notion of financial competence, which gauges the alignment between consumers choices and those they would make if they properly understood their opportunities. We prove our measure admits a formal welfare interpretation even when consumers suffer from additional decision-making flaws, known and unknown, outside the scope of analysis. An application illuminates the pitfalls of the types of brief rhetoric-laden interventions commonly used for adult financial education: they affect behavior through unintended mechanisms, and hence may not improve decisions even when they perform well according to conventional metrics.
 
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