IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Discounting Financial Literacy: Time Preferences and Participation in Financial Education Programs

  • Meier, Stephan


    (Columbia University)

  • Sprenger, Charles


    (Stanford University)

Many policy makers and economists argue that financial literacy is key to financial well-being. But why do many individuals remain financially illiterate despite the apparent importance of being financially informed? This paper presents results of a field study linking individual decisions to acquire personal financial information to a critical, and normally unobservable, characteristic: time preferences. We offered a short, free credit counseling and information program to more than 870 individuals. About 55 percent chose to participate. Independently, we elicited time preferences using incentivized choice experiments both for individuals who selected into the program and those who did not. Our results show that the two groups differ sharply in their measured discount factors. Individuals who choose to acquire personal financial information through the credit counseling program discount the future less than individuals who choose not to participate. Our results suggest that individual time preference may explain who will and who will not choose to become financially literate. This has implications for the validity of studies evaluating voluntary financial education programs and policy efforts focused on expanding financial education.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3507.

in new window

Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3507
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Juergen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Working Papers 2096, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. 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.
  4. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Maribeth Coller & Melonie Williams, 1999. "Eliciting Individual Discount Rates," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 107-127, December.
  6. Daniel Benjamin & James Choi & A. Strickland, 2008. "Social Identity and Preferences," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2634, Yale School of Management.
  7. Bertrand, Marianne & Shafir, Eldar & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2004. "A Behavioral Economics View of Poverty," Scholarly Articles 2907437, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Daniel J. Benjamin & Sebastian A. Brown & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Who is “Behavioral”? Cognitive Ability and Anomalous Preferences," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001334, David K. Levine.
  9. Stefano DellaVigna & M. Daniele Paserman, 2005. "Job Search and Impatience," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(3), pages 527-588, July.
  10. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2007. "Impatience and credit behavior: evidence from a field experiment," Working Papers 07-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  11. 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.
  12. Hanming Fang & Dan Silverman, 2004. "Time-inconsistency and Welfare Program Participation: Evidence from the NLSY," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1465, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1997. "The Endogenous Determination of Time Preference," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 729-758.
  14. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Melonie Williams & Morten Lau, 2005. "Eliciting risk and time preferences using field experiments: Some methodological issues," Artefactual Field Experiments 00063, The Field Experiments Website.
  15. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia Mitchell, 2006. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Preparedness: Evidence and Implications for Financial Education Programs," Working Papers wp144, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  16. 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.
  17. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:3:p:729-58 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Annamaria Lusardi, 2006. "Financial Literacy and Financial Education: Review and Policy Implications," NFI Policy Briefs 2006-PB-11, Indiana State University, Scott College of Business, Networks Financial Institute.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3507. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.