IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/11680.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block

Author

Listed:
  • Esther Duflo
  • William Gale
  • Jeffrey Liebman
  • Peter Orszag
  • Emmanuel Saez

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effects of a large randomized field experiment carried out with H&R Block, offering matching incentives for IRA contributions at the time of tax preparation. About 14,000 H&R Block clients, across 60 offices in predominantly low- and middle-income neighborhoods in St. Louis, were randomly offered a 20 percent match on IRA contributions, a 50 percent match, or no match (the control group). The evaluation generates two main findings. First, higher match rates significantly raise IRA participation and contributions. Take-up rates were 3 percent for the control group, 8 percent in the 20 percent match group, and 14 percent in the 50 percent match group. Average IRA contributions (including non-contributors, excluding the match) for the 20 percent and 50 percent match groups were 4 and 7 times higher than in the control group, respectively. Second, several additional findings are inconsistent with the full information, rational-saver model. In particular, we find much more modest effects on take-up and amounts contributed from the existing Saver's Credit, which provides an effective match for retirement saving contributions through the tax code; we suspect that the differences may reflect the complexity of the Saver's Credit as enacted, and the way in which its effective match is presented. Taken together, our results suggest that the combination of a clear and understandable match for saving, easily accessible savings vehicles, the opportunity to use part of an income tax refund to save, and professional assistance could generate a significant increase in contributions to retirement accounts, including among middle- and low-income households.

Suggested Citation

  • Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2005. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," NBER Working Papers 11680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11680
    Note: PE AG
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11680.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Leonard E. Burman & William G. Gale & Matthew Hall & Peter R. Orszag, 2006. "Distributional Effects of Defined Contribution Plans and Individual Retirement Arrangements," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: Dimitri B. Papadimitriou (ed.), The Distributional Effects of Government Spending and Taxation, chapter 3, pages 69-111, Palgrave Macmillan.
    2. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2011. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Investment in 401(k) Plans," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 748-763, August.
    3. Papke, Leslie E. & Poterba, James M., 1995. "Survey evidence on employer match rates and employee saving behavior in 401(k) plans," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 313-317, September.
    4. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2007. "Employer matching and 401(k) saving: Evidence from the health and retirement study," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 1920-1943, November.
    5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2005. "$100 Bills on the Sidewalk: Suboptimal Saving in 401(k) Plans," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000649, UCLA Department of Economics.
    6. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1996. "How Retirement Saving Programs Increase Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 91-112, Fall.
    7. Andrea L. Kusko & James M. Poterba & David W. Wilcox, 1994. "Employee Decisions with Respect to 401(k) Plans: Evidence From Individual-Level Data," NBER Working Papers 4635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2003. "Rebate versus matching: does how we subsidize charitable contributions matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(3-4), pages 681-701, March.
    9. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Illusory Effects of Saving Incentives on Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 113-138, Fall.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Gary V. Engelhardt & Anil Kumar, 2007. "Employer Matching and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Chapters, in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1920-1943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2010. "The Impact of Employer Matching on Savings Plan Participation under Automatic Enrollment," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 311-327, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Bassett, William F. & Fleming, Michael J. & Rodrigues, Anthony P., 1998. "How Workers Use 401(K) Plans: The Participation, Contribution, and Withdrawal Decisions," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 51(2), pages 263-289, June.
    4. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Saving or Retirement on the Path of Least Resistance," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000606, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. David Card & Michael Ransom, 2011. "Pension Plan Characteristics and Framing Effects in Employee Savings Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 228-243, February.
    6. Nikolov, Plamen & Adelman, Alan, 2019. "Do private household transfers to the elderly respond to public pension benefits? Evidence from rural China," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 14(C).
    7. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, "undated". "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-8, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    8. Atalay, Kadir & Bakhtiar, Fayzan & Cheung, Stephen & Slonim, Robert, 2014. "Savings and prize-linked savings accounts," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 86-106.
    9. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Søren Leth-Petersen & Torben Heien Nielsen & Tore Olsen, 2014. "Active vs. Passive Decisions and Crowd-Out in Retirement Savings Accounts: Evidence from Denmark," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1141-1219.
    10. Amromin, Gene & Huang, Jennifer & Sialm, Clemens, 2007. "The tradeoff between mortgage prepayments and tax-deferred retirement savings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(10), pages 2014-2040, November.
    11. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Working Papers 8655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Heim, Bradley T. & Lurie, Ithai Z., 2012. "The Effect of Recent Tax Changes on Tax-Preferred Saving Behavior," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(2), pages 283-311, June.
    13. Burman, Leonard E. & Coe, Norma B. & Dworsky, Michael & Gale, William G., 2012. "Effects of Public Policies on the Disposition of Pre-Retirement Lump-Sum Distributions: Rational and Behavioral Influences," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(4), pages 863-887, December.
    14. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    15. Michal Grinstein-Weiss & Michael Sherraden & William G. Gale & William M. Rohe & Mark Schreiner & Clinton Key, 2013. "Long-Term Impacts of Individual Development Accounts on Homeownership among Baseline Renters: Follow-Up Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 122-145, February.
    16. Bradley T. Heim & Ithai Z. Lurie, 2014. "Taxes, Income, And Retirement Savings: Differences By Permanent And Transitory Income," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 32(3), pages 592-617, July.
    17. Youssef Benzarti & Jarkko Harju & Tuomas Matikka, 2020. "Does Mandating Social Insurance Affect Entrepreneurial Activity?," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 255-268, June.
    18. Andersen, Henrik Yde, 2018. "Do tax incentives for saving in pension accounts cause debt accumulation? Evidence from Danish register data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 35-53.
    19. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 2002. "Taxation and saving," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1173-1249, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11680. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.