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Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines


  • Nava Ashraf
  • Dean Karlan
  • Wesley Yin


We designed a commitment savings product for a Philippine bank and implemented it using a randomized control methodology. The savings product was intended for individuals who want to commit now to restrict access to their savings, and who were sophisticated enough to engage in such a mechanism. We conducted a baseline survey on 1777 existing or former clients of a bank. One month later, we offered the commitment product to a randomly chosen subset of 710 clients; 202 (28.4 percent) accepted the offer and opened the account. In the baseline survey, we asked hypothetical time discounting questions. Women who exhibited a lower discount rate for future relative to current trade-offs, and hence potentially have a preference for commitment, were indeed significantly more likely to open the commitment savings account. Mter twelve months, average savings balances increased by 81 percentage points for those clients assigned to the treatment group relative to those assigned to the control group. We conclude that the savings response represents a lasting change in savings, and not merely a short-term response to a new product.

Suggested Citation

  • Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:121:y:2006:i:2:p:635-672.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Arijit Mukherji, 2002. "Can We Really Observe Hyperbolic Discounting?," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 391749000000000478,
    3. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
    4. Siwan Anderson & Jean-Marie Baland, 2002. "The Economics of Roscas and Intrahousehold Resource Allocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 963-995.
    5. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Shapiro, Jesse M., 2005. "Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 303-325, February.
    7. Uri Benzion & Amnon Rapoport & Joseph Yagil, 1989. "Discount Rates Inferred from Decisions: An Experimental Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 270-284, March.
    8. Marjorie K. Shelley, 1993. "Outcome Signs, Question Frames and Discount Rates," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(7), pages 806-815, July.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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