What do Consumers Consider Before They Choose? Identification from Asymmetric Demand Responses

The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 136, Issue 3

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjab008

Consideration set models generalize discrete-choice models by relaxing the assumption that consumers consider all available options. Determining which options were considered has previously required either survey data or restrictions on how attributes affect consideration or utility. We provide an alternative route. In full-consideration models, choice probabilities satisfy a symmetry property analogous to Slutsky symmetry in continuous-choice models. This symmetry breaks down in consideration set models when changes in characteristics perturb consideration. We show that consideration probabilities are constructively identified from the resulting asymmetries. We validate our approach in a lab experiment where consideration sets are known and then apply our framework to study a “smart default” policy in Medicare Part D, wherein consumers are automatically reassigned to lower-cost prescription drug plans with the option of opting out. Full-consideration models imply that such a policy will be ineffective because consumers will opt out to avoid switching costs. Allowing for inattention, we find that defaulting all consumers to lower-cost options produces negligible welfare benefits on average, but defaulting only consumers who would save at least $300 produces large benefits.



The Quarterly Journal of Economics