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When Commitment Fails - Evidence from a Regular Saver Product in the Philippines

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  • Anett John (née Hofmann)

Abstract

Commitment products are widely regarded as a remedy for self-control problems. However, imperfect knowledge about one's preferences implies that individuals may fail to anticipate their behaviour under commitment, and consequently choose ill-suited commitment contracts. I conduct a randomised experiment in the Philippines, where low-income individuals were randomly offered a regular-instalment commitment savings product. Individuals chose the stakes of the contract (a default penalty) themselves. A majority appears to choose a harmful contract: While the intent-to-treat effect on individuals' bank savings is large, 55 percent of clients default on their savings contract. A possible explanation that is supported by the data is that the chosen stakes were too low (the commitment was too weak) to overcome clients' self-control problems. Both take-up and default are negatively predicted by measures of sophisticated hyperbolic discounting - suggesting that partial sophisticates adopt weak commitments and then default, while full sophisticates are more cautious about committing, but better able to choose incentive-compatible contracts.

Suggested Citation

  • Anett John (née Hofmann), 2014. "When Commitment Fails - Evidence from a Regular Saver Product in the Philippines," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 055, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:055
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    Cited by:

    1. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Harris, Christopher & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C. & Sakong, Jung, 2015. "Self Control and Commitment: Can Decreasing the Liquidity of a Savings Account Increase Deposits?," Working Paper Series 15-048, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Liang Bai & Benjamin Handel & Edward Miguel & Gautam Rao, 2017. "Self-Control and Demand for Preventive Health: Evidence from Hypertension in India," NBER Working Papers 23727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jonathan DE QUIDT & Maitreesh GHATAK, 2018. "Is The Credit Worth It? For-Profit Lenders In Microfinance With Rational And Behavioral Borrowers," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 89(1), pages 175-199, March.
    4. Carolina Laureti, 2015. "The Debt Puzzle in Dhaka’s Slums: Do Poor People Co-hold for Liquidity Needs?," Working Papers CEB 15-021, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. David Freeman, 2016. "Revealing Naïveté and Sophistication from Procrastination and Preproperation," Discussion Papers dp16-11, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    commitment savings; hyperbolic discounting; partial sophistication;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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