Income Timing, Savings Constraints, and Temptation Spending: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment
43 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2016 Last revised: 30 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 29, 2016
We study a savings technology that is popular but underutilized in developing countries: short-term deferred compensation, in which workers receive a single, later lump sum instead of more frequent installments. Workers who are randomly assigned to lump-sum payments reduce the share of income they spend immediately by 25%, and increase short-term cash holdings by a third. They are 5 percentage points more likely to purchase an artificial "bond" offered through the study. These effects are most likely due to savings constraints: 72% of workers prefer deferred payments, and rationalizing workers' choices without savings constraints requires implausibly low discount factors. Although workers report that temptation spending is an important driver of savings constraints, we find little evidence for that mechanism. Employers could enhance workers' welfare at limited cost by offering deferred wage payments.
Keywords: Savings Constraints, Financial Inclusion, Time Preference, Discounting, Labor Economics, Development Economics
JEL Classification: D14, J33, O12, O16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation