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Mounting evidence suggests that behavioral factors depress wealth accumulation. Although much research and policy focuses on asset accumulation, for many households debt decumulation is more efficient. Yet the mass market for debt reduction services is thin. So we develop and pilot test Borrow Less Tomorrow (BoLT), a behavioral approach to debt reduction that combines a simple decision aid, social commitment, and reminders. Results from a sample of free tax-preparation clients with eligible debt in Tulsa (N=465) indicate strong demand for debt reduction: 41% of those offered BoLT used it to make a plan to accelerate debt repayment. Using random assignment to BoLT offers, we find weak evidence that the BoLT package offered reduces credit card debt.

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Working Paper
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May 01, 2012
English
We partner with a New York City-based credit union to test a commitment savings product and financial counseling among a low-income population. The product, marketed
as a Super Saver Certificate of Deposit (SSCD), allows gradual deposits toward a client’s savings goal but imposes penalties for missed goals or early withdrawals. We randomly
assigned credit union members to a SSCD product offer, an offer of free financial counseling, or a survey-only control group. We find strong demand for both SSCD and counseling that is positively correlated with proxies for behavioral biases. 65.7% of SSCD holders avoided substantial penalties by holding to maturity, and the average closing balance was $910. However, only 32.3% of SSCD clients met their chosen goal amount, and we do not find significant evidence that either the SSCD product offer or the financial counseling treatment increases savings balances or net assets, or affects borrowing behavior, relative to our control group.
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Working Paper
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March 01, 2012
English

We conducted a field experiment to measure the effect of exposure to newspapers on political behavior and opinion. Before the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial election, we randomly assigned individuals to a Washington Post free subscription treatment, a Washington Times free subscription treatment, or a control treatment. We find no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data. However, receiving either paper led to more support for the Democratic candidate, suggesting that media slant mattered less in this case than media exposure. Some evidence from voting records also suggests that receiving either paper led to increased 2006 voter turnout.

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Published Paper
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December 01, 2009
English

Economic theory predicts that in a first-price auction with equal and observable valuations, bidders earn zero profits. Theory also predicts that if valuations are not common knowledge, then since it is weakly dominated to bid your valuation, bidders will bid less and earn positive profits. Hence, rational players in an auction game should prefer less public information. We are perhaps more used to seeing these results in the equivalent Bertrand setting. In our experimental auction, we find that individuals without information on each other’s valuations earn more profits than those with common knowledge. However, given a choice between the two sets of rules, approximately half the individuals preferred to have the public information. We discuss possible explanations, including showing that there is a correlation between ambiguity aversion and a preference for having more information in the auction.

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Published Paper
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July 01, 2009
English

This paper reports the results of a field experiment testing the effectiveness of different quality get-out-the-vote (GOTV) non-partisan phone calls. During the week preceding the November 2004 election, we randomly assigned registered voters in North Carolina and Missouri to one of three live phone calls with varying length and content. The scripts are (1) standard GOTV, (2) interactive GOTV, and (3) interactive GOTV with a request for mobilizing neighbors. We find that people assigned to the interactive GOTV treatment are more likely to turn out, while the effect of the “get your neighbors to vote” script is relatively as weak as that of the standard script. The findings suggest that interactive phone calls generally tend to increase voter turnout, but in order for a phone call to be effective, the message needs to be focused. The borderline statistical significance of the script that encourages neighbors’ participation invites replication of this experiment.

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Published Paper
Date:
March 01, 2009
English
Authors:
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Type:
Published Paper
Date:
July 01, 2008

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