Maya Haran Rosen , Orly Sade
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Define contribution mechanism combined with a dynamic job market can affect the sum of retirement savings and the choices of plans and products. Hence, it is important for regulators to engage servers to manage the accounts they accumulate over the years. In 2013-2014 the Israeli regulator reached out to the population, recommending the use of a website to help individuals find inactive retirement savings accounts and close them (withdraw the savings or transfer them to active accounts). The government's efforts did not result in the closure of most of the inactive accounts. Proprietary data indicate that those who closed the inactive accounts live in central locations with a higher socioeconomic index. Survey data indicate that those who lacked financial literacy and confidence in their financial knowledge were less likely to take financial actions. Using a controlled field experiment, we also provide evidence that an intervention with a human touch can promote greater involvement.
Syon Bhanot
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Across domains, people struggle to follow through on their commitments. This can happen for many reasons, including dishonesty, forgetfulness, or insufficient intrinsic motivation. Social scientists have explored the reasons for persistent failures to follow through. suggesting that eliciting explicit promises can be an effective way to motivate action. This paper presents a field experiment that tests the effect of explicit promises, in the form of "honor pledges", on loan repayment rates. The experiment was conducted with LendUp, an online lender, and targeted 4,883 first time-borrowers with the firm. Individuals were randomized into four groups, with the following experimental treatments: (1) having no honor pledge to complete (control); (2) signing a given honor pledge; (3) re-typing the same honor pledge as in (2) before signing; and (4) coming up with a personal honor pledge to type and sign. I also randomized whether or not borrowers were reminded of the honor pledge they signed prior to repayment deadline. The results suggest that the honor pledge treatments had minimal impacts on repayment, and that reminders of the pledges were similarly ineffective. This suggests that borrowers who fail to repay loans do so not because of dishonesty or behavioral biases, but because they suffer from true financial hardship and are simply unable to repay.
Syon Bhanot
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Perception of peer rank, or how we can perform relative to out peers, can be a powerful motivator. While research exists on the effect of social information on decision making, there is less work on how ranked comparisons with our peers influence our behavior. This paper outlines a field experiment conducted with 3896 households in Castro Valley, California, which uses household mailers with various forms of social information and peer rank messaging to motivate water conservation. The experiment tests the effect of a visible peer rank on water use, and how the competitive framing of rank information influences behavioral response. The results show that households with relatively low or high water use in the pre-treatment period responded differently to how rank information was framed. I find that a neutrally-framed peer rank caused a small "boomerang effect" (i.e., an increase in average water use) for low water households, but this effect was eliminated by competitive framing. At the same time, a competitively-framed peer rank demotivated high water use households, increasing their average water use over the full period of the experiment. This result is supported by evidence that the competitive frame on rank information increased water use for households who ranked "last" in the peer group - a detrimental "last place effect" from competitively-framed rankings.
Syon Bhanot, Gordon Kraft-Todd, David Rand, Erez Yoeli
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We partnered with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to run a randomized experiment testing interventions to increase teacher participation in an annual feedback survey, an uncompensated task that requires a teacher's time but helps the educational system overall. Our experiment varied the nature of the incentive scheme used, and the associated messaging. In the experiment, all 8,062 active teachers in the SDP were randomly assigned to receive one of four emails using a 2x2 experimental design; specifically, teachers received a lottery-based financial incentive to complete the survey that was either "personal" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for themselves) or "social" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for supplies for their students), and also received email messaging that either did or did not make salient their identity as an educator. Despite abundant statistical power, we find no discernible differences across our conditions on survey completion rates. One implication of these null results is that from a public administration perspective, social rewards may be preferable since funds used for this purpose by school districts go directly to students (through increased expenditure on student supplies), and do not seem less efficacious than personal financial incentives for teachers.
Ran Kivetz, Oleg Urminsky, Yuhuang Zheng
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The goal-gradient hypothesis denotes the classic finding from behaviorism that animals expend more effort as they approach a reward. Building on this hypothesis, the authors generate new propositions for the human psychology of rewards. They test these propositions using a field experiment, secondary customer data, paper-and-pencil problems, and Tobit and logit models. The key finding indicate that (1) participants in a real cafe reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are to earning a free coffee; (2) Internet users who rate songs in return for reward certificates visit the rating Web site more often, rate more songs per visit, and persist longer in the rating effort as they approach the reward goal; (3) the illusion of progress toward the goal induces purchase acceleration (e.g., customers who receive a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting "bonus" stamps complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who receive a "regular" 10-stamp card) and (4) a stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster reengagement in the program. The conceptualization and empirical findings are captured by a parsimonious goal distance model, in which effort investment is a function of the proportion of original distance remaining to the goal. In addition, using statistical and experimental controls, the authors rule out alternative explanations for the observed goal gradients. They discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for incentive systems, promotions, and customer retention.
Rudolf Kerschbamer, Daniel Neururer, Matthias Sutter
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Honesty is a fundamental pillar for cooperation in human societies and thus for their economic welfare. However, humans do not always act in an honest way. Here, we examine how insurance coverage affects the degree of honesty in credence good markets. Such markets are plagued by strong incentives for fraudulent behavior of sellers, resulting in estimated annual costs of billions of dollars to costumers and the society as a whole. Prime examples of credence goods are all kinds of repair services, the provision of medical treatments, the sale of software programs, and the provision of taxi rides in unfamiliar cities. We examine in a natural field experiment how computer repair shops take advantage of costumers' insurance for repair costs. In a control treatment, the average repair price is about EUR 70, whereas the repair bill increases by more than 80% when the service provider is informed that an insurance would reimburse the bill. Our design allows decomposing the sources of this economically impressive difference, showing that it is mainly due to the overprovision of parts and overcharging of working time. A survey among repair shops shows that the higher bills are mainly ascribed to insured costumers being less likely to be concerned about minimizing costs because a third party (the insurer) pays the bill. Overall, our results strongly suggest that insurance coverage greatly increases the extent of dishonesty in important sectors of the economy with potentially huge costs to costumers and whole economies.
Eszter Czibor, David Jimenez-Gomez, John A List
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What was once broadly viewed as an impossibility - learning from experimental data in economics - has now become commonplace. Governmental bodies, think tanks, and corporations around the world employ teams of experimental researchers to answer their most pressing questions. For their part, in the past two decades academics have begun to more actively partner with organizations to generate data via field experimentation. While this revolution in evidence-based approaches has served to deepen the economic science, recently a credibility crisis has caused even the most ardent experimental proponents to pause. This study takes a step back from the burgeoning experimental literature and introduces 12 actions that might help to alleviate this credibility crisis and raise experimental economics to an even higher level. In this way, we view our "12 action wish list" as discussion points to enrich the field.
Andrew Dustan, Juan Manuel Hernandez-Agramonte, Stanislao Maldonado
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We study how non-monetary incentives, motivated by recent advances in behavioral economics, affect civil servant performance in a context where state capacity is weak. We collaborated with a government agency in Peru to experimentally vary the context of text messages targeted to civil servants in charge of a school maintenance program. These messages incorporated behavioral insights in dimensions related to information provision, social norms, and weak forms of monitoring and auditing. We find that these messages are a very cost-effective strategy to enforce compliance with national policies among civil servants. We further study the role of social norms and the salience of social benefits in a follow-up experiment and explore the external validity or our original results by implementing a related experiment with civil servants from a different national program. The findings of these new experiments support our original results and provide additional insights regarding the context in which these incentives may work. Our results highlight the importance of carefully designed non-monetary incentives as a tool to improve civil servant performance when the state lacks institutional mechanisms to enforce compliance.
Haoran He, David Neumark, Qian Weng
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We explore compensating differentials for job flexibility, using a field experiment conducted on a Chinese job board. Our job ads differ randomly regarding when one works (time flexibility) and where one works (place flexibility). We find strong evidence that workers value job flexibility - especially regarding place of work. Application rates are higher to flexible jobs, conditional on the salary offered. Additional survey evidence indicates that workers are willing to take lower pay for more flexible jobs. Non-experimental job board data do not indicate that workers value job flexibility, reinforcing the difficulty of estimating compensating differentials from observational data.
Omar Al-Ubaydli, John A List
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Natural field experiments investigating key labour market phenomena such as unemployment have only been used since the early 2000s. This paper reviews the literature and draws three primary conclusions that deepen our understanding of unemployment. First, the inability to monitor workers perfectly in many occupations complicates the hiring decision in a way that contributes to unemployment. Second, the inability to determine a worker's attributes precisely at the time of hiring leads to discrimination on the basis of factors such as race, gender, age and ethnicity. This can lead to systematically high and persistent levels of unemployment for groups that face discrimination. Third, the importance of social and personal dynamics in the workplace can lead to short-term unemployment. Much of the knowledge necessary for these conclusions could only be obtained using natural field experiments due to their ability to combine randomized control with an absence of experimenter demand effects.