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The Effect of Providing Peer Information on Retirement Savings Decisions

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Listed:
  • John Beshears
  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian
  • Katherine L. Milkman

Abstract

We conducted a field experiment in a 401(k) plan to measure the effect of disseminating information about peer behavior on savings. Low-saving employees received simplified plan enrollment or contribution increase forms. A randomized subset of forms stated the fraction of age-matched coworkers participating in the plan or age-matched participants contributing at least 6% of pay to the plan. We document an oppositional reaction: the presence of peer information decreased the savings of non-participants who were ineligible for 401(k) automatic enrollment, and higher observed peer savings rates also decreased savings. Discouragement from upward social comparisons seems to drive this reaction.

Suggested Citation

  • John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Katherine L. Milkman, 2011. "The Effect of Providing Peer Information on Retirement Savings Decisions," NBER Working Papers 17345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17345
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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