Exposure to Poverty and Productivity

Patricio S. Dalton, Charles N. Noussair, Victor Gonzalez Jimenez

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We study whether exposure to poverty can induce affective states that decrease productivity. In a controlled laboratory setting, we find that subjects randomly assigned to a treatment, in which they view a video featuring individuals that live in extreme poverty, exhibit lower subsequent productivity compared to subjects assigned to a control treatment. Questionnaire responses, as well as facial recognition software, provide quantitative measures of the affective state evoked by the two treatments. Subjects exposed to images of poverty experience a more negative affective state than those in the control treatment. Further analysis shows that individuals in a more positive emotional state exhibit less of a treatment effect. Also, those who exhibit greater attentiveness upon viewing the poverty video are less productive. The results are consistent with the notion that exposure to poverty can induce a psychological state in individuals that adversely affects productivity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Eugenio Proto and participants at the Tilburg University seminar and at the IMEBESS 2015 conference. We thank the Center for Economic Research at Tilburg University for funding the experiments reported in this paper.


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