IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/pubeco/v192y2020ics0047272720301626.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Designed to fail: Effects of the default option and information complexity on student loan repayment

Author

Listed:
  • Cox, James C.
  • Kreisman, Daniel
  • Dynarski, Susan

Abstract

Within five years of leaving school, 25% of student loan borrowers default on required minimum payments. These defaults are costly: they add to interest and penalties on loans and lower credit scores, which limits access to future credit and can adversely affect job prospects. We ask why so few student loan borrowers enroll in Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, which insure against default caused by low earnings. To do so we run an incentivized laboratory experiment using a facsimile of the government’s Student Loan Exit Counseling website. We test the roles information complexity, uncertainty about earnings, and the default option play. We find that switching the default option from the Standard plan with fixed minimum payments to an IDR with income-contingent minimum payments, and providing good information about earnings, can dramatically decrease choice of the risky Standard plan.

Suggested Citation

  • Cox, James C. & Kreisman, Daniel & Dynarski, Susan, 2020. "Designed to fail: Effects of the default option and information complexity on student loan repayment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 192(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:192:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720301626
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104298
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272720301626
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104298?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    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

    as
    1. repec:mpr:mprres:7375 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2013. "Simplification and saving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 130-145.
    3. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    4. 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.
    5. Thomas de Haan & Jona Linde, 2018. "‘Good Nudge Lullaby’: Choice Architecture and Default Bias Reinforcement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 128(610), pages 1180-1206, May.
    6. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Kyle Herkenhoff & Gordon Phillips & Ethan Cohen-Cole, 2016. "How Credit Constraints Impact Job Finding Rates, Sorting & Aggregate Output," NBER Working Papers 22274, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    9. Katharine G. Abraham & Emel Filiz-Ozbay & Erkut Y. Ozbay & Lesley J. Turner, 2018. "Behavioral Effects of Student Loan Repayment Plan Options on Borrowers’ Career Decisions: Theory and Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 24804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Adam Looney & Constantine Yannelis, 2015. "A Crisis in Student Loans? How Changes in the Characteristics of Borrowers and in the Institutions They Attended Contributed to Rising Loan Defaults," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 46(2 (Fall)), pages 1-89.
    11. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    12. Clifford, Robert & Shoag, Daniel, 2016. ""No More Credit Score": Emplyer Credit Check Bans and Signal Substitution," Working Paper Series 16-008, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    13. 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.
    14. Robert J. Gary-Bobo & Alain Trannoy, 2015. "Optimal student loans and graduate tax under moral hazard and adverse selection," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(3), pages 546-576, September.
    15. Kyle Herkenhoff, 2016. "The Impact of Consumer Credit Access on Employment, Earnings and Entrepreneurship," 2016 Meeting Papers 781, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    16. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long & Philip Oreopoulos & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2009. "The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Marieke Bos & Emily Breza & Andres Liberman, 2018. "The Labor Market Effects of Credit Market Information," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 31(6), pages 2005-2037.
    18. Will Dobbie & Paul Goldsmith‐Pinkham & Neale Mahoney & Jae Song, 2020. "Bad Credit, No Problem? Credit and Labor Market Consequences of Bad Credit Reports," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 75(5), pages 2377-2419, October.
    19. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. "Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
    20. Rothstein, Jesse & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2011. "Constrained after college: Student loans and early-career occupational choices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1-2), pages 149-163, February.
    21. Benjamin M. Marx & Lesley J. Turner, 2019. "Student Loan Nudges: Experimental Evidence on Borrowing and Educational Attainment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 108-141, May.
    22. Alvaro Mezza & Daniel Ringo & Kamila Sommer & Shane Sherlund, 2016. "On the Effect of Student Loans on Access to Homeownership," ERES eres2016_159, European Real Estate Society (ERES).
    23. 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.
    24. Lochner, L. & Monge-Naranjo, A., 2016. "Student Loans and Repayment," Handbook of the Economics of Education,, Elsevier.
    25. Zachary Bleemer & Meta Brown & Donghoon Lee & Wilbert Van der Klaauw, 2014. "Tuition, jobs, or housing: what's keeping millennials at home?," Staff Reports 700, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    26. Robert J. Gary‐bobo & Alain Trannoy, 2015. "Optimal Student Loans and Graduate Tax under Moral Hazard and Adverse Selection," Post-Print hal-03572114, HAL.
    27. Benjamin L. Castleman & Lindsay C. Page, 2016. "Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 389-415.
    28. Felicia Ionescu, 2009. "The Federal Student Loan Program: Quantitative Implications for College Enrollment and Default Rates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 205-231, January.
    29. Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Lee C. Vermeulen & Marian V. Wrobel, 2012. "Comparison Friction: Experimental Evidence from Medicare Drug Plans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(1), pages 199-235.
    30. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    31. Abraham, Katharine G. & Filiz-Ozbay, Emel & Ozbay, Erkut Y. & Turner, Lesley J., 2020. "Framing effects, earnings expectations, and the design of student loan repayment schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    32. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Determinants of College Major Choice: Identification using an Information Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 791-824.
    33. Robert Clifford & Daniel Shoag, 2016. "“No more credit score”: employer credit check bans and signal substitution," Working Papers 16-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    34. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2016. "Education and optimal dynamic taxation: The role of income-contingent student loans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-21.
    35. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2008. "Forecasting Risk Attitudes: An Experimental Study Using Actual and Forecast Gamble Choices," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-01, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    36. 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.
    37. David A. Wise, 2009. "Developments in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise09-1.
    38. Saurabh Bhargava & George Loewenstein & Justin Sydnor, 2017. "Choose to Lose: Health Plan Choices from a Menu with Dominated Option," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(3), pages 1319-1372.
    39. Mitchell, Olivia S. & Utkus, Stephen P. (ed.), 2004. "Pension Design and Structure: New Lessons from Behavioral Finance," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199273393, November.
    40. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Employees' Investment Decisions about Company Stock," NBER Working Papers 10228, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    41. Alvaro Mezza & Daniel R. Ringo & Shane M. Sherlund & Kamila Sommer, 2016. "Student Loans and Homeownership," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2016-10, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    42. Julian R. Betts, 1996. "What Do Students Know about Wages? Evidence from a Survey of Undergraduates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 27-56.
    43. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    44. Erica Field, 2009. "Educational Debt Burden and Career Choice: Evidence from a Financial Aid Experiment at NYU Law School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 1-21, January.
    45. Henrik Cronqvist & Richard H. Thaler, 2004. "Design Choices in Privatized Social-Security Systems: Learning from the Swedish Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 424-428, May.
    46. Keith Marzilli Ericson & Justin Sydnor, 2017. "The Questionable Value of Having a Choice of Levels of Health Insurance Coverage," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 51-72, Fall.
    47. Brent W. Ambrose & Lawrence R. Cordell & Shuwei Ma, 2015. "The impact of student loan debt on small business formation," Working Papers 15-26, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    48. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2009. "Comment on "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States"," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 195-198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Clément Imbert & Johannes Spinnewijn & Teodora Tsankova & Maarten Luts, 2021. "How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-Wide Experiments in Belgium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 129(5), pages 1425-1463.
    2. Philip Armour & Melanie A. Zaber, 2020. "Does Student Loan Forgiveness Drive Disability Application?," NBER Working Papers 26787, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Yazan K. A. Migdadi & Ahmed A. Khalifa & Abdullah Al-Swidi & Abdulkarem I. Amhamed & Muftah H. El-Naas, 2022. "A Conceptual Framework of Customer Value Proposition of CCU-Formic Acid Product," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(24), pages 1-21, December.
    4. Holger Mueller & Constantine Yannelis, 2022. "Increasing Enrollment in Income‐Driven Student Loan Repayment Plans: Evidence from the Navient Field Experiment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 77(1), pages 367-402, February.
    5. Abraham, Katharine G. & Filiz-Ozbay, Emel & Ozbay, Erkut Y. & Turner, Lesley J., 2020. "Framing effects, earnings expectations, and the design of student loan repayment schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    6. Benjamin M. Marx & Lesley J. Turner, 2019. "Student Loan Choice Overload," NBER Working Papers 25905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Marx, Benjamin M. & Turner, Lesley J., 2020. "Paralysis by analysis? Effects of information on student loan take-up," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    8. Behlen, Lars & Himmler, Oliver & Jaeckle, Robert, 2022. "Can defaults change behavior when post-intervention effort is required? Evidence from education," MPRA Paper 112962, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Mangrum, Daniel, 2022. "Personal finance education mandates and student loan repayment," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(1), pages 1-26.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Choi, James J. & Haisley, Emily & Kurkoski, Jennifer & Massey, Cade, 2017. "Small cues change savings choices," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 378-395.
    2. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2013. "Simplification and saving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 130-145.
    3. Abraham, Katharine G. & Filiz-Ozbay, Emel & Ozbay, Erkut Y. & Turner, Lesley J., 2020. "Framing effects, earnings expectations, and the design of student loan repayment schemes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    4. Mason, Richard, 2019. "Digital enrollment architecture and retirement savings decisions: Evidence from the field," Other publications TiSEM 58639618-e34e-4b5c-8c8c-a, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    5. Mitchell, O.S. & Piggott, J., 2016. "Workplace-Linked Pensions for an Aging Demographic," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, in: Piggott, John & Woodland, Alan (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 865-904, Elsevier.
    6. Francisco Gomes & Michael Haliassos & Tarun Ramadorai, 2021. "Household Finance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 59(3), pages 919-1000, September.
    7. 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.
    8. Johannes Hagen & Daniel Hallberg & Gabriella Sjögren, 2022. "A Nudge to Quit? The Effect of a Change in Pension Information on Annuitisation, Labour Supply and Retirement Choices Among Older Workers [‘Who chooses annuities? An experimental investigation of t," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 132(643), pages 1060-1094.
    9. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Beshears, John & Kosowsky, Harry, 2020. "Nudging: Progress to date and future directions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 161(S), pages 3-19.
    11. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2018. "Nudging in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 313-342.
    12. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "Mental Accounting in Portfolio Choice: Evidence from a Flypaper Effect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2085-2095, December.
    13. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2008. "How are preferences revealed?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1787-1794, August.
    14. French, Robert & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2017. "Behavioral barriers transitioning to college," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 48-63.
    15. 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.
    16. Asen Ivanov, 2021. "Optimal pension plan default policies when employees are biased," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 23(3), pages 583-596, June.
    17. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Saving or Retirement on the Path of Least Resistance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000606, UCLA Department of Economics.
    18. Cardella, Eric & Kalenkoski, Charlene M. & Parent, Michael, 2018. "Less Is Not More: Information Presentation Complexity and 401(k) Planning Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 11538, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    19. Jonathan Cribb & Carl Emmerson, 2016. "What happens when employers are obliged to nudge? Automatic enrolment and pension saving in the UK," IFS Working Papers W16/19, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    20. David J. Freeman & Hanh T. Tong & Lanny Zrill, 2021. "Default-Setting and Default Bias: Does the Choice Architect Matter?," Discussion Papers dp21-08, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Student loans; Default option; Income driven repayment; Experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

    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:eee:pubeco:v:192:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720301626. 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: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578 .

    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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578 .

    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.