Evidence for Opportunity Cost Neglect in the Poor


People often neglect opportunity costs: They do not fully take into account forgone alternatives outside of a particular choice set. Several scholars have suggested that poor people should be more likely to spontaneously consider opportunity costs, because budget constraints should lead to an increased focus on trade-offs. We did not find support for this hypothesis in five high-powered experiments (total N = 2325). The experiments used different products (both material and experiential) with both high and low prices (from $8.50 to $249.99) and different methods of reminding participants of opportunity costs. High-income and low-income participants showed an equally strong decrease in willingness to buy when reminded of opportunity costs, implying that both the rich and the poor neglect opportunity costs.

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making