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Time-Inconsistency and Saving: Experimental Evidence from Low-Income Tax Filers

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  • Damon Jones
  • Aprajit Mahajan

Abstract

We conduct a field experiment designed to test theories of time-inconsistency, namely a "Beta-Delta" model of present bias. The experiment takes place in the context of a saving decision made by low-income tax filers who can deposit their income tax refund into an illiquid account. We find qualitative evidence consistent with present-biased preferences. The tradeoff between an earlier payment or a later one is much more skewed toward taking the early payment when the decision is made on the spot than when the decision is made in advance. We estimate a β and δ of 0.34 and 1.08 over an 8-month horizon, respectively, which translates into an annual discount rate of 164%.

Suggested Citation

  • Damon Jones & Aprajit Mahajan, 2015. "Time-Inconsistency and Saving: Experimental Evidence from Low-Income Tax Filers," NBER Working Papers 21272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21272
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robin Cubitt & Daniel Read, 2007. "Can intertemporal choice experiments elicit time preferences for consumption?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(4), pages 369-389, December.
    2. Behaghel, Luc & Crépon, Bruno & Gurgand, Marc & Le Barbanchon, Thomas, 2009. "Sample Attrition Bias in Randomized Experiments: A Tale of Two Surveys," IZA Discussion Papers 4162, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Michal Bauer & Julie Chytilova & Jonathan Morduch, 2012. "Behavioral Foundations of Microcredit: Experimental and Survey Evidence from Rural India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 1118-1139, April.
    4. Tomomi Tanaka & Colin F. Camerer & Quang Nguyen, 2010. "Risk and Time Preferences: Linking Experimental and Household Survey Data from Vietnam," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 557-571, March.
    5. Alessandro Tarozzi & Aprajit Mahajan & Joanne Yoong & Brian Blackburn, 2009. "Commitment Mechanisms and Compliance with Health-Protecting Behavior: Preliminary Evidence from Orissa, India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 231-235, May.
    6. Damon Jones, 2010. "Information, Preferences, and Public Benefit Participation: Experimental Evidence from the Advance EITC and 401(k) Savings," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 147-163, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Erin Todd Bronchetti & Thomas S. Dee & David B. Hufman & Ellen Magenheim, 2013. "When a Nudge Isn’t Enough: Defaults and Saving Among Low-Income Tax Filers," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 66(3), pages 609-634, September.
    2. Blumenstock, Joshua & Callen, Michael & Ghani, Tarek, 2016. "Mobile-izing Savings with Automatic Contributions: Experimental Evidence on Present Bias and Default Effects in Afghanistan," CEPR Discussion Papers 11400, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Dmitry Taubinsky & Alex Rees-Jones, 2018. "Attention Variation and Welfare: Theory and Evidence from a Tax Salience Experiment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(4), pages 2462-2496.
    4. Moser, Christian & Olea de Souza e Silva, Pedro, 2019. "Optimal Paternalistic Savings Policies," MPRA Paper 95383, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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