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Mental Accounting and Savings Decisions of the Poor
Last registered on December 30, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
Mental Accounting and Savings Decisions of the Poor
Initial registration date
February 21, 2017
Last updated
December 30, 2020 5:19 AM EST

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Primary Investigator
University of Essex
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Most of the poor receive their income in cash and they seem to readily spend it instead of saving some of it. Offering commitment devices to overcome present bias or sending reminders to tackle inattention and forgetfulness only seem to yield modest improvements. In particular, usage levels of formal savings account usually remain low. What if the act itself, depositing the cash into the account or handing it over to the loan officer is associated with non-monetary costs that prevents individuals from saving? Based on a literature that shows reduced spending levels when cash is the means of transaction, I hypothesize that a "cash-in-hand" effect also exists for savings, i.e. individuals become attached to their cash and are reluctant to 'give it away' to save it. I test this hypothesis in a framed field experiment with rural and semi-urban poor in the Philippines ruling out other explanations for undersavings (part 1). As this bias arises due to mental accounting, a small intervention additionally tries to change how participants think about the cash they could save (part 2).
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Spantig, Lisa. 2020. "Mental Accounting and Savings Decisions of the Poor." AEA RCT Registry. December 30. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1870-9.299999999999999.
Former Citation
Spantig, Lisa. 2020. "Mental Accounting and Savings Decisions of the Poor." AEA RCT Registry. December 30. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1870/history/83105.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Part 1: decision to save during the survey (amount saved)

Part 2: weekly savings deposits into personal savings account in week 1-4 after the intervention, savings balance on this account after week 4 (short run outcomes); reassessment of these outcomes after 6 month (medium rum outcomes)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The study consists of a framed field experiment (part 1) and a field experiment (part 2). The first part tests the 'cash-in-hand' effect on savings decisions. Participants take part in a paid individual survey and decide whether and if so, how much of their participation fee they want to save in their existing savings account. The treatment variation consists of receiving the participation fee at the very beginning of the survey, thus holding on to the cash when making the decision vs. receiving the remainder of the participation fee (everything that is not saved) directly after the savings decision. The second part of the study is a field experiment testing the effect of a combination of mental accounting and reminders on savings.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done in STATA.
Randomization Unit
Part 1 will be randomized on the individual level (Cash-in-hand) and on the session level (participation fee amount).

Part 2 will be randomized on barangays (smallest administrative unit) to avoid confounding effects from very close centers.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Part 1: no cluster for cash-in-hand treatment, 30 clusters for participation fee treatment
Part 2: 20 barangays
Sample size: planned number of observations
Part 1: 300 individuals (microfianance clients) Part 2: 871 individuals (if all active clients attend the meetings)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Part 1:
- 75 individuals control and normal participation fee
- 75 individuals cash-in-hand and normal participation fee
- 75 individuals control and surprise participation fee
- 75 individuals cash-in-hand and surprise participation fee

Part 2:
- 3 barangays (100 individuals) CONTROL
- 10 barangays (447 individuals) REMINDER & LABEL
- 7 barangays (324 individuals) REMINDER
- all remaining barangays served by the three involved branches of the partner MFI serve as additional control (based on administrative data only)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Ethics Committee, Economics Department, LMU Munich
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan
Analysis Plan Documents
Pre-Analysis Plan for lab-in-the-field part

MD5: 7d95bac7e8e19679dd08f47b9c63e954

SHA1: 9afedc82ac4f2d10c7d6c4c7db2acb7c240ab4a3

Uploaded At: May 29, 2017