Social Transmission of Financial Decision Making Skills. A Case of the Blind Leading the Blind?
133 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2016 Last revised: 11 Sep 2018
Date Written: January 2, 2017
Previous research shows that many people seek financial advice from non-experts, and that peer interactions influence financial decisions. We investigate whether such influences are beneficial, harmful, or simply haphazard. In our laboratory experiment, face-to-face commu- nication with a randomly assigned peer significantly improves the quality of private decisions, measured by subjects’ ability to choose as if they properly understand their opportunity sets. Subjects do not merely mimic those who know better, but also make better private decisions in novel tasks. People with low financial competence experience greater improvements when their partners also exhibit low financial competence. Hence, peer-to-peer communication transmits financial decision making skills most effectively when peers are equally uninformed, rather than when an informed decision maker teaches an uninformed peer. Qualitative analysis of subjects’ discussions supports this interpretation. The provision of effective financial education to one member of a pair influences the nature of communication but but does not lead to additional improvements in the quality of the untreated partner’s decisions, particularly in novel tasks.
Keywords: Experiment, Behavioral Welfare Economics, Peer Effects, Financial Literacy
JEL Classification: D03, D12, D69, G02
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation