Global Evidence on Economic Preferences

  • Armin Falk Armin Falk
  • Anke Becker Anke Becker
  • Benjamin Enke Benjamin Enke
  • David Huffman David Huffman
  • Thomas Dohmen Thomas Dohmen
  • Uwe Sunde Uwe Sunde

This paper presents the Global Preference Survey (GPS), the first global survey focused on measuring a set of fundamental economic preferences: risk preference, time preference, positive and negative reciprocity, altruism, and trust. The sample includes 80,000 individuals, drawn as representative samples from 76 countries around the world, representing 90 percent of both the world’s population and income. The paper shows that these preferences differ substantially across countries, but heterogeneity within countries is even more pronounced. The preferences vary systematically with plausibly exogenous individual characteristics – gender, cognitive ability, age, and cultural differences as captured by language structure – as well as country-level characteristics like geography. Preference differences are also correlated with differences in
a wide range of individual-level outcomes, including savings decisions, labor market choices, and prosocial behaviors, and these relationships are similar across countries. Country-level preference differences are correlated with variation in important aggregate outcomes, ranging from economic development, to frequency of armed conflicts.

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