Research


Research Interests

  • Millionaires
  • Sustainable Finance
  • Behavioral Finance
  • Experimental Economics
  • Happiness

Millionaires

Millionaires are more generous in dictator games than any other group studied in the literature. Yet, millionaires reduce their generosity in a bargaining context (ultimatum game). For fund raisers, it is therefore important to tap into the giving mindset of the wealthy and prevent an exchange focus like: "You give, you get". 
  • "Buying Time Promotes Happiness", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (with Ashley Whillans, Elizabeth Dunn, Rene Bekkers and Michael Norton) 
How should individuals spend their money to maximize their life satisfaction? Across the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, we find that spending money to buy time increases life satisfaction. Outsourcing tasks such as house cleaning, cooking and doing groceries reduce feelings of stress. Yet, surprisingly, almost half of the Dutch millionaires do not buy time.
  • “Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires” (with Ashley Whillans, Rene Bekkers and Michael Norton), Revision requested at Social Psychological and Personality Science
Millionaires spend their time in a surprisingly similar way as the general population. For example, millionaires spend the same amount of time as the general population cooking, shopping, and eating – and even spend more time on household chores. Yet, the wealthy engage in more active leisure (e.g., exercising and volunteering) and less passive leisure (e.g., watching TV and relaxing), which contributes to their happiness.
  • "How Do the Rich Think About Redistribution?" (with Alain Cohn, Lasse Jessen and Marko Klasjna)
Inequality in the United States has been rising, but the effective tax rates for the very wealthy have dropped. Wealthy individuals have a large influence on the income distribution in society through politics and the corporate world. We find that the affluent want to further decrease taxes for the rich and were more likely to support Donald Trump in the last presidential election. We measured distributional preferences in an incentivized experiment. The wealthy and the general population could redistribute real earnings between real workers, who received unequal compensation for their work. The wealthy accepted more inequality than the general population by redistributing less of the earnings between workers. These distributional preferences are a key factor explaining tax attitudes and the support for Donald Trump. Our findings raise the possibility that wealthy individuals contribute to the persistent income inequality in the U.S.
  • The Joy of Giving: Evidence From a Matching Experiment With Millionaires and the General Population" (with Rene Bekkers, Ashley Whillans and Michael Norton). ASSA 2019, Atlanta
Pre-registration at the OSF: https://osf.io/x69ds/register/565fb3678c5e4a66b5582f67​

Sustainable Finance Do people put their pension savings on the table to promote sustainability? We answer this question in a large-scale field experiment (n = 3,256). The pension fund in our study gave its members a real vote for more or less sustainable investments. We find that 66.7% of the participants favor to invest their pension savings in a more sustainable manner. Even among participants who expect lower financial returns on sustainable investments, a majority votes for more sustainable investments in their pension plan.
Pre-registration at the OSF: https://osf.io/pz7rn/ Social preferences are the most important driver for investors to hold socially responsible mutual funds. Many investors accept lower expected returns on socially responsible investments and are willing to pay higher management fees. Providers of socially responsible investments benefit from a focus on the societal impact of responsible investments rather than focusing too much on financial performance.
Covered by Harvard Law School Forum

The extent to which investors at socially responsible banks can identify with their socially responsible investments is an important driver for allocations to socially responsible banks. Return expectations and risk preferences also play a role, but are less important. Providers of socially responsible investments can benefit from creating strong social connections with their clients.


Financial Decision Making

Investors have selective memories of prior outcomes, remembering the good ones and forgetting the bad ones. This negatively affects their future investment decisions. Financial incentives increase retirement information search by 52%. Financial incentives are cost-effective: only $4.21 for informing one additional pension fund beneficiary. In contrast, all our social norms treatments are ineffective and sometimes significantly reduce the rate at which participants inform themselves.
Pre-registration at the AEA RCT Registry: https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/987​ We develop an experimental method to estimate individuals’ time and risk preferences tailored to long-term decision making, like pension savings decisions. We directly compare our approach to low stakes incentivized experiments with short horizons, typically used in the literature. 
  • "Testosterone and Overconfidence of Investment Managers" (with Pim van Vliet) 
​We measured the testosterone levels of professional investment managers who manage about 100 billion euro of assets. Investment managers with a high level of testosterone are substantially more likely to believe they outperform their peers than justified by the actual performance data.
  • Gender Diversity and Overconfidence in Pairs" (with Tobias Ruof)
Gender composition of pairs matters for information processing. Pairs that include men suffer from asymmetric belief updating, by responding much stronger to positive feedback than to negative feedback. In contrast, female-only pairs and pairs with unknown gender update their beliefs in a symmetric way. The results inform the debate on gender diversity in companies and universities.


Philanthropy Reports

Joint projects with financial institutions

Robeco abn amro tridos bank asn bank deutsche bank loyalis

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