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10/18 @ 4pm The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior

"The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets"

Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:00 PM
Kline Biology Tower (KBT), CSSSI, Study Room South
219 Prospect St., New Haven

One of the oldest and most controversial topics in linguistics and related cognitive sciences is whether the language you speak can influence the way you think. I take a new look this question by testing a linguistic-savings hypothesis: that languages which disassociate the future from the present lead their speakers to take fewer future-oriented actions, like saving for retirement, exercising, or practicing safe sex. I test this by looking at speakers of over 140 languages in large economic data sets from all over the world. What I find is that speakers whose languages grammatically disassociate the future and the present save less, hold less retirement wealth, smoke more, are more likely to be obese, and engage in riskier sexual behaviors. This is true in every major region of the world and holds even when comparing only demographically similar individuals born and living in the same country.

Keith Chen is an Associate Professor of Economics at the Yale School of Management whose research intersects economics, psychology, and biology. His recent work explores how people's economic choices are influenced by their language and its structure, specifically how future tense construction appears to influence future-oriented behaviors as diverse as savings and smoking.
Light refreshments will be served.

For more information: http://csssi.yale.edu/