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Details Matter: The Impact of Presentation and Information on the Take-Up of Financial Incentives for Retirement Saving

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  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

We examine the effects of presentation and information on the take-up of financial subsidies for retirement saving in a large randomized experiment carried out with H&R Block. The subsidies raise take-up and contributions with larger effects when the subsidy is characterized as a matching contribution rather than an equivalent-value tax credit (or cash back), and when filers are informed before the tax season about the subsidy. The results imply that both pure incentives and the presentation of those incentives affect consumer choices. (JEL D14, H24, H31, J26)

Suggested Citation

  • Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Details Matter: The Impact of Presentation and Information on the Take-Up of Financial Incentives for Retirement Saving," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 204-228, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:204-28
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.1.1.204
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Douglas D. Davis & Edward L. Millner, 2005. "Rebates, Matches, and Consumer Behavior," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 410-421, October.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. 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.
    5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Do Donors Care about Subsidy Type? An Experimental Study," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-10, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    7. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions in the Field: Evidence from a Non-Secular Charity," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-44, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    8. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(K) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 275-298, June.
    9. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlin & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market," NBER Working Papers 11892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 607-654.
    11. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Duflo, Esther & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "Participation and investment decisions in a retirement plan: the influence of colleagues' choices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 121-148, July.
    13. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2003. "Rebate versus matching: does how we subsidize charitable contributions matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 681-701, March.
    14. Douglas D. Davis, 2006. "Rebate subsidies, matching subsidies and isolation effects," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 1, pages 13-22, July.
    15. Gur Huberman & Sheena Iyengar & Wei Jiang, 2007. "Defined Contribution Pension Plans: Determinants of Participation and Contributions Rates," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-32, February.
    16. Douglas Davis & Edward Millner & Robert Reilly, 2005. "Subsidy Schemes and Charitable Contributions: A Closer Look," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 8(2), pages 85-106, June.
    17. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlan & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2010. "What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 263-306.
    18. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2006. "Subsidizing Charitable Giving with Rebates or Matching: Further Laboratory Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 794-807, April.
    19. Catherine Eckel, 2005. "Subsidizing Charitable Contributions: A Field Test Comparing Matching and Rebate Subsidies," Working Papers 2098, The Field Experiments Website.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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