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Expectations with Endogenous Information Acquisition: An Experimental Investigation
 
Andreas Fuster, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Basit Zafar
 
 
Abstract:
Information frictions play an important role in many theories of expectation formation and macroeconomic fluctuations. We use a survey experiment to generate direct evidence on how people acquire and process information, in the context of national home price expectations. We let consumers buy different pieces of information that could be relevant for the formation of their expectations about the future median national home price. We use an incentive-compatible mechanism to elicit their maximum willingness to pay. We also introduce exogenous variation in the value of information by randomly assigning individuals to rewards for the ex-post accuracy of their expectations. Consistent with rational inattention, individuals are willing to pay more for information when they stand to gain more from it. However, underscoring the importance of limits on information processing capacity, individuals disagree on which signal they prefer to buy. Individuals with lower education and financial numeracy are less likely to demand information that has ex-ante higher predictive power, independently of stakes. As a result, lowering the information acquisition cost does not decrease the cross-sectional dispersion of expectations. Our findings have implications for models of expectation formation and for the design of information interventions.