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Commitment or Concealment? Impacts and Use of a Portable Saving Device: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Urban India

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  • Janina Isabel Steinert

    (Technical University of Munich, TUM School of Governance; Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford)

  • Rucha Vasumati Satish

    (Chair of Development Economics, University of Goettingen)

  • Felix Stips

    (Centre for Evaluation (CEval))

  • Sebastian Vollmer

    (Chair of Development Economics, University of Goettingen)

Abstract

We study the impact of a portable "soft" commitment device on the financial behavior of low-income slum dwellers in Maharashtra, India. 1525 individuals were randomly allocated to receiving either a zip purse and a lockbox (treatment arm) or a lockbox only (control arm). Based on self-reported measures and hand counts of money held in the distributed saving devices, we document an 81% increase in total savings in the treatment group. We do not find significant reductions in temptation spending, thus suggesting that increases in savings were not primarily realized through improvements in self-control. Instead, we suggest that reduced sharing obligations are driving the effect. In additional analyses, we document a 35% decrease in past-month transfers of cash to other household members. Hence, our findings suggest that saving can be more effectively promoted by alleviating access-related rather than behavior-related constraints, and particularly by giving women access to a saving device of their own.

Suggested Citation

  • Janina Isabel Steinert & Rucha Vasumati Satish & Felix Stips & Sebastian Vollmer, 2020. "Commitment or Concealment? Impacts and Use of a Portable Saving Device: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Urban India," Munich Papers in Political Economy 04, Munich School of Politics and Public Policy and the School of Management at the Technical University of Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:aiw:wpaper:04
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Saving; Temptation Spending; Commitment Device; RCT;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D15 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Intertemporal Household Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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