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Harnessing emotional connections to improve financial decisions : evaluating the impact of financial education in mainstream media

Author

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  • Berg,Gunhild
  • Zia,Bilal Husnain

Abstract

This paper exploits the emotional connections and viewer attentiveness of mainstream media to evaluate the economic impact of financial education messages on debt management delivered through a popular television soap opera in South Africa. The study uses a symmetric encouragement design to compare outcomes of individuals who were randomly assigned to watch a soap opera with financial messages,"Scandal!"to those of individuals who were invited to watch a similar soap opera without financial messages,"Muvhango."Both shows overlapped in evening primetime and had similar past viewership profiles. The financial storyline spanned two months and featured one of the leading characters of the show borrowing excessively and irresponsibly through hire-purchase, gambling, and ending up in financial distress; and eventually seeking help to find her way out. Two intermediate and one final follow-up surveys were conducted as part of the study. The analysis finds individuals assigned to watch Scandal had significantly higher financial knowledge of the issues highlighted in the soap opera storyline, in particular messages delivered by the leading character. On behavior, Scandal viewers were almost twice more likely to borrow from formal sources, less likely to engage in gambling, and less prone to enter hire purchase agreements. Messages promoting a national debt mediation helpline delivered by an external character did not sustain traction beyond immediate interest. Three qualitative focus groups highlight the importance of emotional connections with the leading character in motivating behavior change.

Suggested Citation

  • Berg,Gunhild & Zia,Bilal Husnain, 2013. "Harnessing emotional connections to improve financial decisions : evaluating the impact of financial education in mainstream media," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6407, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6407
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cardoso, Ana Rute & Verner, Dorte, 2007. "Youth Risk-Taking Behavior in Brazil: Drug Use and Teenage Pregnancies," IZA Discussion Papers 3030, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Hoff, Karla & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2016. "Striving for balance in economics: Towards a theory of the social determination of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PB), pages 25-57.
    2. Stefano DellaVigna & Eliana La Ferrara, 2015. "Economic and Social Impacts of the Media," NBER Working Papers 21360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dean Karlan, Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan, Jonathan Zinman, 2013. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda-Working Paper 346," Working Papers 346, Center for Global Development.
    4. B. Ronchini, 2015. "Il ruolo emergente dell'edutainment nei percorsi di educazione finanziaria," Economics Department Working Papers 2015-EF03, Department of Economics, Parma University (Italy).
    5. Tim Kaiser & Lukas Menkhoff, 2018. "Financial Education in Schools: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental Studies," CESifo Working Paper Series 7395, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Eliana La Ferrara, 2016. "Mass Media And Social Change: Can We Use Television To Fight Poverty?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 791-827, August.
    7. Bjorvatn, Kjetil & Cappelen, Alexander W. & Sekei, Linda Helgesson & Sørensen, Erik Ø. & Tungodden, Bertil, 2015. "Teaching through television: Experimental evidence on entrepreneurship education in Tanzania," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 3/2015, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    8. Kaiser, Tim & Menkhoff, Lukas, 2018. "Active Learning Improves Financial Education:," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 131, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    9. Dean Karlan & Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Savings by and for the Poor: A Research Review and Agenda," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 36-78, March.
    10. Viktor Slavtchev & Michael Wyrwich, 2017. "TV and Entrepreneurship," Jena Economic Research Papers 2017-007, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    11. Calderone, Margherita & Fiala, Nathan & Mulaj, Florentina & Sadhu, Santadarshan & Sarr, Leopold, 2014. "When Can Financial Education Affect Savings Behavior? Evidence From A Randomized Experiment Among Low Income Clients of Branchless Banking in India," Working Papers 32, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
    12. Tim Kaiser & Lukas Menkhoff, 2017. "Does Financial Education Impact Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior, and If So, When?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 31(3), pages 611-630.
    13. repec:eee:deveco:v:134:y:2018:i:c:p:443-466 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Bruce I. Carlin & Li Jiang & Stephen A. Spiller, 2014. "Learning Millennial-Style," NBER Working Papers 20268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Tim Kaiser & Lukas Menkhoff, 2018. "Active Learning Fosters Financial Behavior: Experimental Evidence," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1743, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Population Policies; Access to Finance; Financial Literacy; Debt Markets; Banks&Banking Reform;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements

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