Exposure to Poverty and Productivity

Patricio Dalton, Victor Gonzalez Jimenez, Charles Noussair

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We study whether 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 analyses show 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
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • poverty
  • productivity
  • mood
  • emotions
  • limited attention
  • experiments


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