Passive Decisions and Potent Defaults

26 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2003 Last revised: 4 Nov 2010

See all articles by James J. Choi

James J. Choi

Yale School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Brigitte C. Madrian

Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Andrew Metrick

Yale School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Yale University - Yale Program on Financial Stability

Date Written: August 2003

Abstract

Default options have an enormous impact on household choices.' Defaults matter because opting out of a default is costly and these costs change over time, generating an option value of waiting. In addition, people have a tendency to procrastinate. We develop a theory of optimal defaults based on these considerations. We find that it is sometimes optimal to set extreme defaults, which are far away from the mean optimal savings rate. A default that is far away from a consumer's optimal savings rate may make that consumer better off since such a bad' default will lead procrastinating consumers to more quickly opt out of the default. We calibrate our model and use it to calculate optimal defaults for employees at four different companies. Our work suggests that optimal defaults are likely to be at one of three savings rates: the minimum savings rate (i.e., 0%), the match threshold (typically 5% or 6%), or the maximal savings rate.

Suggested Citation

Choi, James J. and Laibson, David I. and Madrian, Brigitte C. and Metrick, Andrew, Passive Decisions and Potent Defaults (August 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9917. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=437486

James J. Choi

Yale School of Management ( email )

135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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David I. Laibson (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
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617-496-3402 (Phone)
617-495-8570 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Brigitte C. Madrian

Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business ( email )

Provo, UT 84602
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Andrew Metrick

Yale School of Management ( email )

165 Whitney Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
United States
(203)-432-3069 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.som.yale.edu/andrewmetrick/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Yale University - Yale Program on Financial Stability

165 Whitney Avenue
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States

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