BU Professor Zili Yang’s study examines lucky numbers and Chinese economy

‘Lucky’ numbers make for unlucky customers

Chinese consumers pay too much for goods and services because of superstitions surrounding particular numbers, Binghamton University economist Zili Yang says.

In a study published recently by The Journal of Socio-Economics, Yang reports that an aversion to the number 4, combined with a preference for the numbers 6 and 8, may translate into a “surcharge” of as much as 1.4 percent of China’s gross domestic product.

In China, the world’s second-largest economy, superstition plays an important role in the pricing of consumer goods. The number 4 shares the same sound as “death” in Chinese; 6 is a lucky number that represents “smooth”; and the number 8 sounds like the word “prosperity” in Chinese.

It’s not uncommon for a culture to have such preferences, Yang notes: Consider Americans’ aversion to the number 13. The difference is that the Chinese superstition has significant economic implications.

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