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Relative Wealth and Risk Taking
Last registered on April 06, 2021


Trial Information
General Information
Relative Wealth and Risk Taking
Initial registration date
April 06, 2021
Last updated
April 06, 2021 6:19 AM EDT

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Primary Investigator
University of Heidelberg
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
EUI Florence
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
We present representative evidence that perceptions about relative rank in the wealth distribution shape individuals’ willingness to take risks, and that this effect is moderated by a key personality trait, an individuals’ locus of control. Using a large-scale survey in Germany, we manipulate perceptions of relative wealth standing by randomly varying response categories when asking respondents about their wealth level. We measure their risk tolerance in a subsequent incentivized lottery task. Our results indicate that respondents who are induced to perceive
their relative position as low choose riskier lotteries on average. We show that this effect is mainly driven by people who more firmly believe that life outcomes are beyond their control (external locus of control). This interaction between preferences and individuals’ underlying belief systems highlights the benefits of incorporating personality traits into economic analysis.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Fehr, Dietmar and Yannick Reichlin. 2021. "Relative Wealth and Risk Taking." AEA RCT Registry. April 06. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7444-1.0.
Experimental Details
We implemented an incentivized survey experiment in the Socio-Economic Panel Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS). The SOEP-IS is a representative longitudinal survey of German households. We manipulate respondents' perceptions about their relative wealth and subsequently measure their risk tolerance through an incentivized lottery task, which allows us to parameterize a respondent's utility function.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
risk measure (constant relative risk aversion parameter)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We manipulate respondents' perception about their relative wealth. Specifically, we ask respondents about their net wealth and randomly vary the response categories of the question.3 Half of the respondents see response categories with wide intervals, e.g., the lowest category ranges up to 275,000 euro (treatment condition). Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents (about 80 percent) should place themselves into this lowest category, and thus perceive their relative wealth rank as low. The other half of respondents receive response categories with small intervals where, for example, the lowest category was less than 2,500 euro (control condition). This implies, in contrast to the treatment condition, that the majority of respondents should locate themselves in the middle and top categories and thus perceive their wealth rank as higher. Subsequently, we measure respondents' risk tolerance through an incentivized lottery task.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization at the individual level done by the survey software
Randomization Unit
individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clustering
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
500 (treatment)
500 (control)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number