Can Pre-Commitment Increase Savings Deposits? Evidence from a Tax Time Field Experiment
43 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 4, 2019
This paper presents the results of an experiment testing the roles of a savings pre-commitment and different savings-focused choice architectures on the savings deposit decisions of 845,786 low- and moderate-income (LMI) tax filers. Results suggest that pre-committing to save at the start of the tax filing process can, among certain populations, dramatically increase savings rates. Among early tax filers, pre-commitment is associated with a 20.6 percentage point increase in savings deposits and a $418.86 increase in the amount deposited to savings. We observe more modest effects of pre-commitment on a general sample of tax filers. We also see strong evidence that choice architectures emphasizing savings strongly impact the deposit decisions of tax filers. The experiment also revealed cautionary evidence that the structure of pre-commitment can solidify decisions, making it then harder to later nudge those who opt-out of savings to change their minds. These findings may be broadly applicable to settings beyond the tax time moment – such as to applications that seek to encourage particular behaviors (like work or exercise) on the part of its participants.
Keywords: behavioral interventions, defaults, anchors, commitment
JEL Classification: D1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation