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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. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
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  5. Hanming Fang & Dan Silverman, 2004. "Time-inconsistency and Welfare Program Participation: Evidence from the NLSY," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1465, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
  7. Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau & Elisabet Rutstrom & Melonie Williams, 2005. "Eliciting risk and time preferences using field experiments: Some methodological issues," Artefactual Field Experiments 00063, The Field Experiments Website.
  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. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Financial literacy and retirement preparedness: Evidence and implications for financial education programs," CFS Working Paper Series 2007/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  10. Lalith Munasinghe & Nachum Sicherman, 2006. "Why Do Dancers Smoke? Smoking, Time Preference, and Wage Dynamics," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 595-616, Fall.
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  12. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  13. Bertrand, Marianne & Shafir, Eldar & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2004. "A Behavioral Economics View of Poverty," Scholarly Articles 2907437, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  14. 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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  16. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-58, August.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Tatom, John, 2010. "Financial wellbeing and some problems in assessing its link to financial education," MPRA Paper 26411, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. 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.
  3. Matthias Sutter & Martin G. Kocher & Daniela Rützler & Stefan T. Trautmann, 2011. "Impatience and Uncertainty: Experimental Decisions Predict Adolescents' Field Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 3635, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Marianne Bertrand & Adair Morse, 2009. "Information Disclosure, Cognitive Biases and Payday Borrowing," Working Papers 2009-007, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  5. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
  6. 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.

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