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Borrow Less Tomorrow: Behavioral Approaches to Debt Reduction

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  • Dean Karlan
  • Jonathan Zinman

Abstract

Mounting evidence suggests that behavioral factors depress wealth accumulation. Although much research and policy focuses on asset accumulation, for many households debt decumulation is more efficient. Yet the mass market for debt reduction services is thin. So we develop and pilot test Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT), a behavioral approach to debt reduction that combines a simple decision aid, social commitment, and reminders. Results from a sample of free tax-preparation clients with eligible debt in Tulsa (N=465) indicate strong demand for debt reduction: 41% of those offered BoLT used it to make a plan to accelerate debt repayment. Using random assignment to BoLT offers, we find weak evidence that the BoLT package offered reduces credit card debt.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2012. "Borrow Less Tomorrow: Behavioral Approaches to Debt Reduction," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2012-17, Center for Retirement Research, revised May 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2012-17
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    File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/borrow-less-tomorrow-behavioral-approaches-to-debt-reduction/
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    Cited by:

    1. Johanna Peetz & Melanie Simmons & Jingwen Chen & Roger Buehler, 2016. "Predictions on the go: Prevalence of spontaneous spending predictions," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 11(1), pages 48-61, January.

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