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When a Nudge Isn’t Enough: Defaults and Saving Among Low-Income Tax Filers

Author

Listed:
  • Erin Todd Bronchetti
  • Thomas S. Dee
  • David B. Hufman
  • Ellen Magenheim

Abstract

This study discusses a field experiment on default options and savings decisions by low-income households at the time of federal tax filing. In the treatment, a fraction of the tax refund was automatically directed to U.S. Savings Bonds unless filers actively chose another allocation. We find that this opt-out default had no impact on savings, and our treatment estimate is sufficiently precise to reject effects as small as 20 percent of those found in the literature on defaults and 401(k) plans. Our results have implications for understanding when default interventions will be effective and when their influence will be limited.

Suggested Citation

  • Erin Todd Bronchetti & Thomas S. Dee & David B. Hufman & Ellen Magenheim, 2013. "When a Nudge Isn’t Enough: Defaults and Saving Among Low-Income Tax Filers," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 66(3), pages 609-634, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:66:y:2013:i:3:p:609-634
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Berber Kramer, 2016. "When expectations become aspirations: reference-dependent preferences and liquidity constraints," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 61(4), pages 685-721, April.
    2. Cox, James C. & Sadiraj, Vjollca & Schnier, Kurt E. & Sweeney, John F., 2016. "Higher quality and lower cost from improving hospital discharge decision making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PB), pages 1-16.
    3. Carol Osler & Thang Nguyen & Tanseli Savaser, 2011. "Asymmetric Information and the Foreign-Exchange Trades of Global Custody Banks," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-09, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    4. 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.
    5. Michalek, Gabriela & Meran, Georg & Schwarze, Reimund & Yildiz, Özgür, 2016. "Nudging as a new "soft" policy tool: An assessment of the definitional scope of nudges, practical implementation possibilities and their effectiveness," Economics Discussion Papers 2016-18, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. Asen Ivanov, 2018. "Optimal Default Policies in Defined Contribution Pension Plans when Employees are Biased," Working Papers 858, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
    7. Gabriela Michalek & Georg Meran & Reimund Schwarze & Özgür Yildiz, 2015. "Nudging as a new 'soft' tool in environmental policy. An analysis based on insights from cognitive and social psychology," Discussion Paper Series RECAP15 21, RECAP15, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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