IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/aecrev/v108y2018i10p2868-2901.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Why Do Defaults Affect Behavior? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan

Author

Listed:
  • Joshua Blumenstock
  • Michael Callen
  • Tarek Ghani

Abstract

We report on an experiment examining why default options impact behavior. By randomly assigning employees to different varieties of a salary-linked savings account, we find that default enrollment increases participation by 40 percentage points—an effect equivalent to providing a 50% matching incentive. We then use a series of experimental interventions to differentiate between explanations for the default effect, which we conclude is driven largely by present-biased preferences and the cognitive cost of thinking through different savings scenarios. Default assignment also changes employees' attitudes toward saving, and makes them more likely to actively decide to save after the study concludes.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Blumenstock & Michael Callen & Tarek Ghani, 2018. "Why Do Defaults Affect Behavior? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(10), pages 2868-2901, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:10:p:2868-2901
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20171676
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/doi/10.1257/aer.20171676
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles/attachments?retrieve=NnS1_c9uwYzlYRXi95PG7SlyFZZeSaaE
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles/attachments?retrieve=ZrjZF5TTacRpeMdpbnURTAwtX-BtYvBA
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles/attachments?retrieve=dkgm_8XFtzjS2WPwdwSBvu8x97lh40PD
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Abadie, Alberto & Gay, Sebastien, 2006. "The impact of presumed consent legislation on cadaveric organ donation: A cross-country study," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(4), pages 599-620, July.
    2. Dean Karlan & Margaret McConnell & Sendhil Mullainathan & Jonathan Zinman, 2016. "Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(12), pages 3393-3411, December.
    3. John List & Azeem Shaikh & Yang Xu, 2016. "Multiple Hypothesis Testing in Experimental Economics," Artefactual Field Experiments 00402, The Field Experiments Website.
    4. William Jack & Tavneet Suri, 2014. "Risk Sharing and Transactions Costs: Evidence from Kenya's Mobile Money Revolution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 183-223, January.
    5. Gabriel D. Carroll & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2009. "Optimal Defaults and Active Decisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1639-1674.
    6. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Søren Leth-Petersen & Torben Heien Nielsen & Tore Olsen, 2014. "Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowd-Out in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1141-1219.
    7. Michael Callen & Suresh De Mel & Craig McIntosh & Christopher Woodruff, 2014. "What are the Headwaters of Formal Savings? Experimental Evidence from Sri Lanka," Working Papers id:6265, eSocialSciences.
    8. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
    9. Alejandro Drexler & Greg Fischer & Antoinette Schoar, 2014. "Keeping It Simple: Financial Literacy and Rules of Thumb," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 1-31, April.
    10. Robin Burgess & Rohini Pande, 2005. "Do Rural Banks Matter? Evidence from the Indian Social Banking Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 780-795, June.
    11. Vincent Somville & Lore Vandewalle, 2018. "Saving by Default: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 39-66, July.
    12. Banerjee, Abhijit & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2010. "The Shape of Temptation: Implications for the Economic Lives of the Poor," CEPR Discussion Papers 7828, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. James Andreoni & Michael Callen & Karrar Hussain & Muhammad Khan & Charles Sprenger, 2016. "Using Preference Estimates to Customize Incentives: An Application to Polio Vaccination Drives in Pakistan," Natural Field Experiments 00570, The Field Experiments Website.
    14. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
    15. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    17. Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1311-1346.
    18. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Katherine L. Milkman, 2015. "The Effect of Providing Peer Information on Retirement Savings Decisions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 70(3), pages 1161-1201, June.
    19. Robin Cubitt & Daniel Read, 2007. "Can intertemporal choice experiments elicit time preferences for consumption?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(4), pages 369-389, December.
    20. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Reshmaan Hussam & Atonu Rabbani & Giovanni Reggiani & Natalia Rigol, 2017. "Habit Formation and Rational Addiction: A Field Experiment in Handwashing," Harvard Business School Working Papers 18-030, Harvard Business School.
    22. Dean Karlan & Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 36-78, March.
    23. repec:ilo:ilowps:485512 is not listed on IDEAS
    24. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    25. Leonardo Bursztyn & Florian Ederer & Bruno Ferman & Noam Yuchtman, 2014. "Understanding Mechanisms Underlying Peer Effects: Evidence From a Field Experiment on Financial Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(4), pages 1273-1301, July.
    26. B. Douglas Bernheim & Andrey Fradkin & Igor Popov, 2015. "The Welfare Economics of Default Options in 401(k) Plans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(9), pages 2798-2837, September.
    27. Nava Ashraf, 2009. "Spousal Control and Intra-household Decision Making: An Experimental Study in the Philippines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1245-1277, September.
    28. Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus & Sandip Sukhtankar, 2016. "Building State Capacity: Evidence from Biometric Smartcards in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2895-2929, October.
    29. Simone Schaner, 2015. "Do Opposites Detract? Intrahousehold Preference Heterogeneity and Inefficient Strategic Savings," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 135-174, April.
    30. Leandro S. Carvalho & Stephan Meier & Stephanie W. Wang, 2016. "Poverty and Economic Decision-Making: Evidence from Changes in Financial Resources at Payday," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(2), pages 260-284, February.
    31. Blumenstock, Joshua E. & Eagle, Nathan & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2016. "Airtime transfers and mobile communications: Evidence in the aftermath of natural disasters," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 157-181.
    32. Andreoni, James & Kuhn, Michael A. & Sprenger, Charles, 2015. "Measuring time preferences: A comparison of experimental methods," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 451-464.
    33. Brune, Lasse & Giné, Xavier & Goldberg, Jessica & Yang, Dean, 2017. "Savings defaults and payment delays for cash transfers: Field experimental evidence from Malawi," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 1-13.
    34. repec:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:4:p:1290-1322 is not listed on IDEAS
    35. Ned Augenblick & Muriel Niederle & Charles Sprenger, 2015. "Editor's Choice Working over Time: Dynamic Inconsistency in Real Effort Tasks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(3), pages 1067-1115.
    36. Kapsos, Steven. & Bourmpoula, Evangelia., 2013. "Employment and economic class in the developing world," ILO Working Papers 994855123402676, International Labour Organization.
    37. Gopi Shah Goda & Matthew R. Levy & Colleen Flaherty Manchester & Aaron Sojourner & Joshua Tasoff, 2015. "The Role of Time Preferences and Exponential-Growth Bias in Retirement Savings," NBER Working Papers 21482, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    38. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    39. Karlan, Dean & Kendall, Jake & Mann, Rebecca & Pande, Rohini & Suri, Tavneet & Zinman, Jonathan, 2016. "Research and Impacts of Digital Financial Services," Working Paper Series 16-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    40. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Farrell, Anne M. & Weisbenner, Scott J., 2016. "Decision-making approaches and the propensity to default: Evidence and implications," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(3), pages 477-495.
    41. Benjamin, Daniel J., 2003. "Does 401(k) eligibility increase saving?: Evidence from propensity score subclassification," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1259-1290, May.
    42. Demirguc-Kunt,Asli & Klapper,Leora & Singer,Dorothe & Van Oudheusden,Peter, 2015. "The Global Findex Database 2014 : measuring financial inclusion around the world," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7255, The World Bank.
    43. repec:hrv:faseco:32785047 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & William L. Skimmyhorn, 2019. "Borrowing to Save? The Impact of Automatic Enrollment on Debt," NBER Working Papers 25876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Eva Haaser & Melanie Koch, 2019. "Do Default Assignments Increase Savings of the Poor? Empirical Evidence," DIW Roundup: Politik im Fokus 130, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Macchiavello, Rocco, 2018. "Firm and Market Response to Saving Constraints: Evidence from the Kenyan Dairy Industry," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 367, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. repec:eee:jeborg:v:153:y:2018:i:c:p:267-282 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:deveco:v:135:y:2018:i:c:p:235-254 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:10:p:2868-2901. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.