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Saving by Default: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural India

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Abstract

Worldwide, people are gaining access to a formal bank account, which allows account-based instead of cash payments. Based on a novel randomized control trial, we document that the payment method is an important determinant of savings behavior. In rural India, we study the effect on savings of allocating identical weekly payments on a bank account (treated) or in cash (control). The treatment impact is huge: savings increase by 110% within three months, and the effect is long-lasting. Villagers paid in cash do not save more in other assets, but increase consumption. Therefore, we infer that being paid on a bank account has a net positive impact on total savings. When we twist the design and start paying everyone in cash, savings and consumption patterns no longer differ between the treated and control. We interpret these findings as the outcome of the default option, and shed light on six plausible underlying mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Lore Vandewalle & Vincent Somville, 2015. "Saving by Default: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Rural India," IHEID Working Papers 01-2015, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies, revised 31 Mar 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:gii:giihei:heidwp01-2015
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    Cited by:

    1. Grohmann, Antonia & Klühs, Theres & Menkhoff, Lukas, 2018. "Does financial literacy improve financial inclusion? Cross country evidence," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 84-96.
    2. Lorenzo Casaburi & Rocco Macchiavello, 2019. "Demand and Supply of Infrequent Payments as a Commitment Device: Evidence from Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(2), pages 523-555, February.
    3. Federico A. Bugni & Mengsi Gao, 2021. "Inference under Covariate-Adaptive Randomization with Imperfect Compliance," Papers 2102.03937, arXiv.org.
    4. Joshua Blumenstock & Michael Callen & Tarek Ghani, 2018. "Why Do Defaults Affect Behavior? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(10), pages 2868-2901, October.
    5. Cl'ement de Chaisemartin & Jaime Ramirez-Cuellar, 2019. "At What Level Should One Cluster Standard Errors in Paired and Small-Strata Experiments?," Papers 1906.00288, arXiv.org, revised May 2022.
    6. Spantig, Lisa, 2021. "Cash in hand and savings decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 1206-1220.
    7. Pascaline Dupas & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Robinson & Diego Ubfal, 2018. "Banking the Unbanked? Evidence from Three Countries," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 257-297, April.
    8. Vincent Somville & Lore Vandewalle, 2019. "Access to Banking, Savings and Consumption Smoothing in Rural India," IHEID Working Papers 09-2019, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies.
    9. Ghosal, Sayantan & Jana, Smarajit & Mani, Anandi & Mitra, Sandip & Roy, Sanchari, 2016. "Sex Workers, Stigma and Self-Image: Evidence from Kolkata Brothels," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 302, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    10. Almås, Ingvild & Somville, Vincent & Vandewalle, Lore, 2020. "The Effect of Gender-Targeted Transfers: Experimental Evidence From India," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 16/2020, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    11. Steinert, Janina Isabel & Vasumati Satish, Rucha & Stips, Felix & Vollmer, Sebastian, 2022. "Commitment or concealment? Impacts and use of a portable saving device: Evidence from a field experiment in urban India," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 193(C), pages 367-398.
    12. Eva Haaser & Melanie Koch, 2019. "Do Default Assignments Increase Savings of the Poor? Empirical Evidence," DIW Roundup: Politik im Fokus 130, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    13. Pierre Bachas & Paul Gertler & Sean Higgins & Enrique Seira, 2017. "How Debit Cards Enable the Poor to Save More," NBER Working Papers 23252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Pascaline Dupas & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Robinson & Diego Ubfal, 2018. "Banking the Unbanked? Evidence from Three Countries," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 257-297, April.
    15. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Macchiavello, Rocco, 2015. "Firm and Market Response to Saving Constraints: Evidence from the Kenyan Dairy Industry," CEPR Discussion Papers 10952, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Rink, Ute & Walle, Yabibal M. & Klasen, Stephan, 2021. "The financial literacy gender gap and the role of culture," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 117-134.
    17. Rahul Mehrotra & Vincent Somville & Lore vandewalle, 2016. "Increasing trust in the bank to enhance savings: Experimental evidence from India," CMI Working Papers 1, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    18. Singh, Nirvikar, 2018. "Financial Inclusion: Concepts, Issues and Policies for India," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt98p5m37s, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    19. Pierre Bachas & Paul Gertler & Sean Higgins & Enrique Seira, 2021. "How Debit Cards Enable the Poor to Save More," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 76(4), pages 1913-1957, August.
    20. Brune, Lasse & Giné, Xavier & Goldberg, Jessica & Yang, Dean, 2017. "Savings defaults and payment delays for cash transfers: Field experimental evidence from Malawi," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 1-13.
    21. Paul Christian & Steven Glover & Florence Kondylis & Valerie Mueller & Matteo Ruzzante & Astrid Zwager, 2022. "Do private consultants promote savings and investments in rural Mozambique?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 53(1), pages 22-36, January.
    22. Kochar, Anjini, 2018. "Branchless banking: Evaluating the doorstep delivery of financial services in rural India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 160-175.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Savings; Finance; Behavioral Economics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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