Earmarking Space: Relationality, Economic Judgments, and Housing Wealth

Socio-Economic Review 21 (3), 1445-1472 [DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwac055] (w/Max Besbris)

Housing wealth is the single largest portion of household wealth in most Western societies today, yet little research has examined how individuals make decisions regarding the use of the housing wealth that they possess. In this paper, we leverage insights from relational economic sociology to understand how individuals’ subjective valuations and other economic judgments are influenced when space in a home is relationally earmarked. Using a series of original vignette experiments and survey tasks in conjunction with qualitative responses, we find that earmarking a room for a close social tie does indeed matter for valuation. Furthermore, we reveal that individual economic judgments are strongly influenced by different relational content associated with relational earmarks compared to a control. Put differently, we systematically show how modifying the constitution of an earmark strengthens or lessens the appropriateness of its match and prompts distinct patterns of economic decision-making. Our analyses extend relational economic sociology to studies of housing while also building intellectual bridges with research on judgment and decision-making (JDM).



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