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Selection into financial literacy programs: evidence from a field study

  • Stephan Meier
  • Charles Sprenger

As financial literacy has been shown to correlate with good financial decisions, policymakers promote educational programs to improve individuals’ financial decisions. But who selects into educational programs and who acquires information about personal finance? This paper, in a field study with more than 870 individuals, offers individuals free information about their credit reports (and credit scores). About 55 percent choose to participate in this small counseling program. To test whether those who self-select to acquire information about personal finance differ from those who do not on (normally) unobservable characteristics, we elicit time preferences, using incentivized choice experiments. Our results show that the two groups differ sharply in their discount factors: those who choose to acquire information do not discount the future as much as those who choose not to acquire information. This result has implications for financial education programs.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Public Policy Discussion Paper with number 07-5.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:07-5
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  1. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Becker, Gary S & Mulligan, Casey B, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-58, August.
  3. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role Of Information And Social Interactions In Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence From A Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842, August.
  4. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2006. "Baby Boomer Retirement Security: the Roles of Planning, Financial Literacy, and Housing Wealth," NBER Working Papers 12585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hanming Fang & Dan Silverman, 2007. "Time-Inconsistency and Welfare Program Participation: Evidence from the NLSY," NBER Working Papers 13375, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra E, 1997. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator: Evidence from Evaluating a Job Training Programme," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 605-54, October.
  7. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Eliciting Risk and Time Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 583-618, 05.
  8. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Melonie Williams & Morten Lau, 2002. "Estimating individual discount rates in denmark: A field experiment," Artefactual Field Experiments 00062, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Lalith Munasinghe & Nachum Sicherman, 2006. "Why Do Dancers Smoke? Smoking, Time Preference, and Wage Dynamics," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 595-616, Fall.
  10. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
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