When a Nudge Isn't Enough: Defaults and Saving Among Low-Income Tax Filers
Recent evidence suggests that the default options implicit in economic choices (e.g., 401(k) savings by white-collar workers) have extraordinarily large effects on decision-making. This study presents a field experiment that evaluates the effect of defaults on savings among a highly policy-relevant population: low-income tax filers. In the control condition, tax filers could choose (i.e., opt in) to receive some of their federal tax refund in the form of U.S. Savings Bonds. In the treatment condition, a fraction of the tax refund was automatically directed to U.S. Savings Bonds unless tax filers actively chose another allocation. We find that the opt-out default had no impact on savings behavior. Furthermore, our treatment estimate is sufficiently precise to reject effects as small as one-fifth of the participation effects found in the 401(k) literature. Ancillary evidence suggests that this "nudge" was ineffective in part because the low-income tax filers in our study had targeted plans to spend their refunds. These results suggest that choice architecture based on defaults may be less effective in certain policy-relevant settings, particularly where intentions are strong.
|Date of creation:||Mar 2011|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as “When a Nudge isn’t Enough: Defaults and Saving among Low - Income Tax Filers,” with Erin Bronchetti, David Huffman, and Ellen Magenheim, National Tax Journal 66(3), September 2013, 609 - 634.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
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.:
- Esther Duflo & William Gale & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & Emmanuel Saez, 2006.
"Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1311-1346.
- Emmanuel Saez & Esther Duflo & Jeffrey Liebman & Peter Orszag & William Gale, 2005. "Saving incentives for low- and middle-income families: Evidence from a field experiment with h&r block," Framed Field Experiments 00234, The Field Experiments Website.
- 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.
- Duflo, Esther & Gale, William & Liebman, Jeff & Orszag, Peter & Saez, Emmanuel, 2005. "Saving Incentives for Low- and Middle-Income Families: Evidence from a Field Experiment with H&R Block," CEPR Discussion Papers 5332, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- James Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2003.
"Passive Decisions and Potent Defaults,"
NBER Working Papers
9917, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013.
"Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients,"
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics,
American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
- Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," NBER Working Papers 14836, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16887. 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: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.