x

We are happy to announce that all trial registrations will now be issued DOIs (digital object identifiers). For more information, see here.
Beliefs about Debt
Last registered on March 31, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Beliefs about Debt
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001960
Initial registration date
January 26, 2017
Last updated
March 31, 2017 11:38 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Oxford
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Goethe University Frankfurt
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2017-01-26
End date
2017-01-28
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We examine whether people's beliefs about government debt affect their attitudes towards government spending and taxation. We first ask all of our respondents about their estimate of the current debt-to-GDP ratio in the United States. Then, we inform half of the participants about the actual current debt-to-GDP ratio. Thereafter, all of our respondents complete a series of questions measuring their attitudes towards government spending and taxation using self-reports and behavioral measures. In this document, we outline our plan for analysis of the data, including the main specifications of interest, the dimensions of heterogeneity, and corrections for multiple hypothesis testing.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Roth, Christopher and Johannes Wohlfart. 2017. "Beliefs about Debt." AEA RCT Registry. March 31. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1960-6.0.
Former Citation
Roth, Christopher, Christopher Roth and Johannes Wohlfart. 2017. "Beliefs about Debt." AEA RCT Registry. March 31. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1960/history/15623.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Our experiment is structured as follows: First, we inform all participants about the debt-to-GDP ratio in 1970 and ask them to estimate the current debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.S.. Second, only respondents in the treatment group receive information about the actual debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.S. in 2016 (104.81 percent).
Intervention Start Date
2017-01-27
Intervention End Date
2017-01-28
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
We ask all of our respondents whether they think that there is too much government debt in the U.S. and whether the government should reduce the amount of debt. Thereafter, we ask them a series of questions on their attitudes towards the amount of government spending in general and on different spending categories. Subsequently, our respondents answer a series of questions on whether income taxes of different income groups should be increased or decreased, whether the government should introduce a wealth tax and whether the Estate tax should be increased or decreased.

We also add a question that allows us to understand our respondents' preferences over debt- vs. tax-financed government spending. Half of our respondents are asked whether they support the introduction of a temporary investment program on infrastructure which is financed by a temporary tax increase, while the remaining respondents are asked whether they are supportive of the same investment program financed by issuing new debt. This novel measure allows us to test whether people's beliefs about the level of government debt affect their preferences over the way new government spending is financed.

Subsequently, we explore mechanisms, such as our respondents' expectations about future taxation and government spending as well as their beliefs about the sustainability of public finances. Moreover, we measure our respondents' trust towards the government and their beliefs about the effectiveness of the government and about the corruption of politicians.\medskip

Then all respondents complete two novel behavioral measures that capture their attitudes towards government spending and the size of the government. First, they are given $5 and can decide how much to keep for themselves or how much to donate to the Cato Institute, which is an NGO advocating for downsizing the government. Second, we give all of our respondents the opportunity to sign a real online petition on the White House webpage in favor of introducing a balanced-budget rule.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Our experiment is structured as follows: First, we inform all participants about the debt-to-GDP ratio in 1970 and ask them to estimate the current debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.S.. Second, only respondents in the treatment group receive information about the actual debt-to-GDP ratio in the U.S. in 2016 (104.81 percent).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization is done by the computer.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
800
Sample size: planned number of observations
800
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
400 receive the info treatment
400 receive no info.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Oxford
IRB Approval Date
2017-01-27
IRB Approval Number
ECONCIA17-18-002
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
PAP

MD5: 956a4bfa3b9c01c7001c030dd10fae29

SHA1: 2cb85a4cc1c51fdcfe63a2ecd2bc44e81663ee4e

Uploaded At: January 26, 2017

PAP Representative Sample

MD5: 98bd62c64cb56f91a11f9f23210def7d

SHA1: 368763b122bc9ed64812eae69b230cd1b973aa72

Uploaded At: February 06, 2017

Debt Vignette

MD5: c3d891b49dd54d9902fea9c4e709e375

SHA1: 96cf145a23e314eeea69abc96c03a3c358f792eb

Uploaded At: March 31, 2017

Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers