IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Self-control, financial literacy and consumer over-indebtedness


  • Gathergood, John


This paper examines the relationship between self-control, financial literacy and over-indebtedness on consumer credit debt among UK consumers. Lack of self-control and financial illiteracy are positively associated with non-payment of consumer credit and self-reported excessive financial burdens of debt. Consumers who exhibit self-control problems are shown to make greater use of quick-access but high cost credit items such as store cards and payday loans. We also find consumers with self-control problems are more likely to suffer income shocks, credit withdrawals and unforeseen expenses on durables, suggesting that lack of self-control increases exposure to a variety of risks. In most specifications we find a stronger role for lack of self-control than for financial illiteracy in explaining consumer over-indebtedness. We discuss the policy implications of these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Gathergood, John, 2012. "Self-control, financial literacy and consumer over-indebtedness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 590-602.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:33:y:2012:i:3:p:590-602 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.11.006

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2007. "Measuring Self-Control Problems," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 966-972, June.
    2. David K. Levine & Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1449-1476, December.
    3. Hoelzl, Erik & Kamleitner, Bernadette & Kirchler, Erich, 2011. "Loan repayment plans as sequences of instalments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 621-631, August.
    4. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-Control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402.
    5. 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.
    6. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    7. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    8. 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.
    9. van Rooij, Maarten & Lusardi, Annamaria & Alessie, Rob, 2011. "Financial literacy and stock market participation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(2), pages 449-472, August.
    10. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    11. Paul Heidhues & Botond Koszegi, 2010. "Exploiting Naivete about Self-Control in the Credit Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2279-2303, December.
    12. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 413-417, May.
    13. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    14. Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Financial Literacy: An Essential Tool for Informed Consumer Choice?," NFI Working Papers 2008-WP-13, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
    15. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2005. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000643, UCLA Department of Economics.
    16. John Y. Campbell, 2006. "Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(4), pages 1553-1604, August.
    17. Kapteyn, Arie & Teppa, Federica, 2011. "Subjective measures of risk aversion, fixed costs, and portfolio choice," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 564-580, August.
    18. Laibson, David I. & Agarwal, Sumit & Driscoll, John C. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life-Cycle with Implications for Regulation," Scholarly Articles 4554335, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    19. Lusardi, Annamaria & Tufano, Peter, 2015. "Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(04), pages 332-368, October.
    20. Tullio Jappelli, 2010. "Economic Literacy: An International Comparison," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(548), pages 429-451, November.
    21. Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Where Is The Missing Credit Card Debt? Clues And Implications," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(2), pages 249-265, June.
    22. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    23. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & Melonie B. Williams, 2002. "Estimating Individual Discount Rates in Denmark: A Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1606-1617, December.
    24. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
    25. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 505-540.
    26. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
    27. Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2013. "Investment in financial literacy and saving decisions," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 2779-2792.
    28. Stefano DellaVigna & M. Daniele Paserman, 2005. "Job Search and Impatience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(3), pages 527-588, July.
    29. 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.
    30. McHugh, Sandie & Ranyard, Rob & Lewis, Alan, 2011. "Understanding and knowledge of credit cost and duration: Effects on credit judgements and decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 609-620, August.
    31. Richard Disney & John Gathergood, "undated". "Financial Literacy ad Indebtedness: New Evidence for UK Consumers," Discussion Papers 11/05, University of Nottingham, Centre for Finance, Credit and Macroeconomics (CFCM).
    32. James Banks & Cormac O'Dea & Zoë Oldfield, 2010. "Cognitive Function, Numeracy and Retirement Saving Trajectories," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(548), pages 381-410, November.
    33. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2008. "Lying About Borrowing," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 510-521, 04-05.
    34. Peter Tufano, 2009. "Consumer Finance," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 227-247, November.
    35. Sarah Bridges & Richard Disney, 2004. "Use of credit and arrears on debt among low-income families in the United Kingdom," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 25(1), pages 1-25, March.
    36. Maribeth Coller & Melonie Williams, 1999. "Eliciting Individual Discount Rates," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 2(2), pages 107-127, December.
    37. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
    38. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    39. Kim, Jeong-Yoo, 2006. "Hyperbolic discounting and the repeated self-control problem," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 344-359, June.
    40. Hoelzl, Erik & Kapteyn, Arie, 2011. "Financial capability," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 543-545, August.
    41. Benhabib, Jess & Bisin, Alberto, 2005. "Modeling internal commitment mechanisms and self-control: A neuroeconomics approach to consumption-saving decisions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 460-492, August.
    42. Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau & Elisabet Rutstrom & Melonie Williams, 2006. "Eliciting risk and time preferences using field experiments: Some methodological issues," Artefactual Field Experiments 00063, The Field Experiments Website.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Self-control; Financial literacy; Consumer debt;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth


    Access and download statistics


    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:eee:joepsy:v:33:y:2012:i:3:p:590-602. 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: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    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.