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Discounting Financial Literacy: Time Preferences and Participation in Financial Education Programs

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Author Info

  • Meier, Stephan

    ()
    (Columbia University)

  • Sprenger, Charles

    ()
    (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

Many policy makers and economists argue that financial literacy is key to financial well-being. But why do many individuals remain financially illiterate despite the apparent importance of being financially informed? This paper presents results of a field study linking individual decisions to acquire personal financial information to a critical, and normally unobservable, characteristic: time preferences. We offered a short, free credit counseling and information program to more than 870 individuals. About 55 percent chose to participate. Independently, we elicited time preferences using incentivized choice experiments both for individuals who selected into the program and those who did not. Our results show that the two groups differ sharply in their measured discount factors. Individuals who choose to acquire personal financial information through the credit counseling program discount the future less than individuals who choose not to participate. Our results suggest that individual time preference may explain who will and who will not choose to become financially literate. This has implications for the validity of studies evaluating voluntary financial education programs and policy efforts focused on expanding financial education.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3507.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2012, [Online First]
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3507

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Related research

Keywords: selection; time preferences; financial literacy; field experiment;

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References

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  1. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 1730, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role Of Information And Social Interactions In Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence From A Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842, August.
  3. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia Mitchell, 2006. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education Programs," Working Papers wp144, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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  7. Maribeth Coller & Melonie Williams, 1999. "Eliciting Individual Discount Rates," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 107-127, December.
  8. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2007. "Impatience and credit behavior: evidence from a field experiment," Working Papers 07-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  9. Annamaria Lusardi, 2006. "Financial Literacy and Financial Education: Review and Policy Implications," NFI Policy Briefs 2006-PB-11, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
  10. Hanming Fang & Dan Silverman, 2009. "Time-Inconsistency And Welfare Program Participation: Evidence From The Nlsy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1043-1077, November.
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  13. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Marianne Bertrand & Adair Morse, 2011. "Information Disclosure, Cognitive Biases, and Payday Borrowing," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1865-1893, December.
  2. Rützler, Daniela & Sutter, Matthias & Kocher, Martin G. & Trautmann, Stefan T., 2011. "Impatience and Uncertainty: Experimental Decisions Predict Adolescents' Field Behavior," Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48720, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  3. van Rooij, Maarten C.J. & Lusardi, Annamaria & Alessie, Rob J.M., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the Netherlands," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 593-608, August.
  4. Benjamin Levinger & Marques Benton & Stephan Meier, 2011. "The Cost of Not Knowing the Score: Self-Estimated Credit Scores and Financial Outcomes," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 32(4), pages 566-585, December.
  5. Meier, Stephan & Sprenger, Charles, 2009. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," IZA Discussion Papers 4198, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Tatom, John, 2010. "Financial wellbeing and some problems in assessing its link to financial education," MPRA Paper 26411, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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