Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Make a wish

A 2010 survey sponsored by CBS News, Vanity Fair, and 60 Minutes asked "If one of the following things could happen to you without any effort on your part, which one would you pick? "

1. Receive $10,000 dollars tax free      42%
2. Lose 10 pounds                         8%
3. Become fluent in another language     21%
4. Get a college or advanced degree      17%
5. Be one year younger.                  10%

I wondered what types of people would choose each answer.  A summary of what I found:

higher incomes:  less likely to choose money, more likely to choose language and education.
older:  less likely to choose education, more likely to choose being younger
more educated:  less likely to choose education and being younger; more likely to choose losing weight and another language
women:  more likely to choose education, less likely to choose being younger
blacks:  no significant differences
Hispanics:  less likely to choose money, more likely to choose being younger
conservatives:  no significant differences

Some of the patterns reflect "diminishing marginal utility":  the more you have of something, the less benefit you get from having even more.  For example, if I were offered this choice, I wouldn't go for more education.  But there are others that can't--e. g., the differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanics.  The lack of difference by race and political ideology is also striking, since they are strongly related to opinions on many topics.  

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