This project tried to explore the interaction of consumer biases with lighting companies' incentives to innovate, as well as the role for government policy in spurring innovation. Researchers were particularly interested in comparing the social and private incentives to invest in light bulb technologies and whether recent innovation in light bulbs would have been likely to happen absent government intervention.
Unfortunately, obtaining the needed data for this proved very challenging. The researchers obtained data on consumer purchases (Nielsen Homescan), but the acquisition of store-level data was delayed beyond the project’s timeframe. Thus, the researchers were unable to reliably reflect consumer choices when buyers went to the store, because researchers had to aggregate products at the state and year level. The project faced similar data challenges in obtaining data on light bulb manufacturers and their innovation processes. Detailed data on R&D were unfortunately only available for limited years, well before the light bulb ban was implemented.
The researchers estimated consumer preferences based on consumer choices and did not find any change in consumers’ perception of incandescent light bulb quality, compared to other more energy efficient options, during the period of study (2004-2009). However, the researchers could not confidently say that legislation had no impact on consumers’ perception, as the limited data did not allow them to estimate these effects confidently.