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Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines

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Author Info

  • Nava Ashraf

    ()
    (Harvard University)

  • Dean S. Karlan

    ()
    (Yale University, Economic Growth Center)

  • Wesley Yin

    ()
    (Princeton University)

Abstract

We designed a commitment savings product for a Philippine bank and implemented it using a randomized control methodology. The savings product was intended for individuals who want to commit now to restrict access to their savings, and who were sophisticated enough to engage in such a mechanism. We conducted a baseline survey on 1777 existing or former clients of a bank. One month later, we offered the commitment product to a randomly chosen subset of 710 clients; 202 (28.4 percent) accepted the offer and opened the account. In the baseline survey, we asked hypothetical time discounting questions. Women who exhibited a lower discount rate for future relative to current tradeoffs, and hence potentially have a preference for commitment, were indeed significantly more likely to open the commitment savings account. After twelve months, average savings balances increased by 81 percentage points for those clients assigned to the treatment group relative to those assigned to the control group. We conclude that the savings response represents a lasting change in savings, and not merely a short-term response to a new product.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 917.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:917

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Related research

Keywords: Savings; commitment; hyperbolic preferences; microfinance; development economics; program evaluation; field experiment; self-control;

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  1. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S251-78, October.
  2. Siwan Anderson, 2000. "The Economics of Roscas and Intra-Household Resource Allocation," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1323, Econometric Society.
  3. Marjorie K. Shelley, 1993. "Outcome Signs, Question Frames and Discount Rates," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(7), pages 806-815, July.
  4. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S164-S187, February.
  5. Richard Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
  6. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Arijit Mukherji, 2002. "Can We Really Observe Hyperbolic Discounting?," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 391749000000000478, www.najecon.org.
  7. Shapiro, Jesse M., 2005. "Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 303-325, February.
  8. Uri Benzion & Amnon Rapoport & Joseph Yagil, 1989. "Discount Rates Inferred from Decisions: An Experimental Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 270-284, March.
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