Understanding social support for markets and “just prices”

Last registered on November 22, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Understanding social support for markets and “just prices”
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0007531
Initial registration date
April 22, 2021
Last updated
November 22, 2021, 11:08 AM EST

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Toronto

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Johns Hopkins University
PI Affiliation
Universidad del CEMA

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2021-04-28
End date
2021-12-31
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
We conduct randomized survey experiments with US and Canadian residents to study attitudes toward market-based transactions, with a specific focus on whether and how people perceive and elaborate tradeoffs between competing values and goals. In our survey, participants will express their views and preferences over scenarios where companies increase the prices of certain goods in particular circumstances and scenarios where public authorities prohibit these price increases. Our sample will include 4,000 Americans and 4,000 Canadians and it will be representative of the respective populations in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, age, and educational attainment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Elias, Julio, Nicola Lacetera and Mario Macis. 2021. "Understanding social support for markets and “just prices”." AEA RCT Registry. November 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.7531-1.3000000000000003
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Our study will be based on an online experimental survey with respondents randomly assigned to different conditions. Our sample will include 4,000 Americans and 4,000 Canadians and it will be representative of the respective populations in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, age, and educational attainment. We will rely on the survey company Respondy for the recruitment.

A QSF file of the survey, reporting all conditions, is attached (not public), including the US version of the survey. The Canadian version is identical with just a few exceptions, to adapt it to the different institutional and geographical context (the questions about residence list Canadian provinces instead of US states, the questions about voting behavior in the most recent election concern the parliamentary elections in 2019 instead of the 2020 US presidential elections, and so on).

In addition to an initial set of screening questions where we establish quotas to make the sample representative in terms of age, educational attainment, gender, and race/ethnicity, the survey has five parts.

Part 1 of the survey will include general information as well as walk informed consent text.

Part 2 will include socio-demographic questions.

Part 3 represents the main randomized intervention. In this part, each respondent will evaluate the morality of and express their policy preference between two scenarios, one where the price of a product is fully determined by a company (or "the market"), and one in which a public authority imposes a price cap.

In part 4, we will ask participants about their opinions on the role of the markets and the government in an economy, and the extent to which they think the government should intervene to guarantee access to certain products. There will also be a trolley problem-like dilemma in this part.

In part 5, participants will answer questions about their time preferences, general trust in others, and pro-social preferences.

About six months after the first survey, we will administer a follow-up survey to the original participants. The follow-up survey will have the same structure as the original one; however, instead of being randomly assigned, participants will receive a scenario corresponding to the one they received in the first survey. Additionally, the follow-up survey will include an incentivized donation module. Respondents will have the opportunity to gain $1 if they allow the researchers to donate $1 to a certain organization.
Intervention Start Date
2021-04-28
Intervention End Date
2021-12-31

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcome of interest is the proportion of respondents, for each condition, who select the unregulated pricing scenario as their preferred one. We are also interested in the moral views of the respondents for each scenario.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
In addition to asking to select one of the two scenarios as their preferred policy, the survey will also include an open text question where the respondents will motivate their choice. We plan to perform some text analyses (word frequencies, sentiment analysis, etc.) on these motivations.

We will also assess the consistency between the state choices of a scenario and the donation choice for the respondents assigned to having the donation opportunity. In particular, we want to see whether those who prefer the free pricing option ae more likely to donate to the foundation that promotes unfettered markets.

Finally, we will determine to what extent the main outcomes of interest depend on overall attitudes toward market and governments, and whether the moral views on he specific scenarios correlate with the scenario choices.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experimental components of the survey will concern part 3 and part 5 described above.
Experimental Design Details
The randomized component of the survey is in Part 3.

In the first survey, we will randomly assign each respondent to a scenario defined as a combination of the following elements: One of four products (a pharmaceutical drug, a treadmill for home use, hand sanitizer, hand moisturizer); the salience of "demand factors" (increase in demand) or "supply factors" (increase in unit costs) as causes of the price increase; the origin of the shock being a pandemic disease or left unspecified; specification of the consequences in terms of share of the market served and prices, or no specification of such consequences. For each product, there will also be a condition where each of the two scenarios (with or without the imposition of a price cap) will only report the fact that a company increased the price of the good (and in the price-cap case, that the government then imposes a cap), without any of the explanations reported above. Each participant will be randomly assigned only one scenario.

About six months after the first survey, we will administer a follow-up survey to the original participants. In our original survey, we presented participants with a scenario involving a product whose price went up due to increased demand. About half of the participants were provided with a scenario description that made salient the tradeoffs implied by whether the government intervened to regulate the price increase or not (group A), whereas no tradeoffs were mentioned to the other half (group B). In the follow-up, participants from group A will receive the same scenario they saw in the original survey, and participants from group B will now receive the text where the possible tradeoffs are made salient. Thus, in the follow-up survey, all participants will see a text that makes tradeoffs salient.

Our objective is twofold: 1) to assess the consistency in responses (and, therefore, in the participants' underlying preferences and attitudes) over time, and 2) to test whether the salience of tradeoffs affects preferences for unregulated vs. capped prices for the same individual. In addition, this analysis will allow us to assess the presence of different "types" of respondents -- i.e., those who opposed unregulated prices regardless of the salience of potential tradeoffs, those who opposed price caps in both waves, and those who did change their preferences with and without the explicit mention of potential tradeoffs.

Additionally, the follow-up survey will include an incentivized donation module. Respondents will have the opportunity to gain $1 if they allow the researchers to donate $1 to a foundation that promotes free, unfettered markets (the Future of Freedom Foundation). The objective of this part of the survey is to test whether individuals who oppose unregulated prices are willing to express their dissent also by not donating to a pro-market organization, thereby sacrificing an extra monetary gain.

Note: Funding for the donation module of this study was provided by a University of Toronto’ Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Sector Strategy grant. The donation module was included purely for research purposes and it does not represent an endorsement of the organization by Johns Hopkins University or the University of Toronto, or by the authors of the study.
Randomization Method
We will run our survey on Qualtrics and rely on their randomization procedure.
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
We will survey 4000 US residents and 4000 residents in Canada
Sample size: planned number of observations
8000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Each treatment arm will occur with equal probability.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Toronto REB
IRB Approval Date
2021-01-01
IRB Approval Number
40280
IRB Name
JHU Homewood Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2020-12-15
IRB Approval Number
00012177
Analysis Plan

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Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials