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Reframing Debt Reduction with Subgoals
Initial registration date
February 28, 2019
March 02, 2019 12:59 PM EST
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University of Southern California, Center for Economic and Social Research
Other Primary Investigator(s)
University of Southern California
Additional Trial Information
Does reframing large debt burdens into smaller goals increase debt repayment? We are working with a large not-for-profit credit counseling agency to examine whether reframing debt payments into subgoals can improve debt repayment behavior. Randomly selected participants in the credit counseling agency's debt management plan (DMP) will receive communications that frame their debt burdens as small, steadily increasing subgoals, of which the majority can be successfully completed in the first year of the plan. We plan to evaluate the impacts of reframing on DMP retention and debt reduction.
This study will evaluate the effectiveness of reframing large debt burdens into milestones (subgoals), and of messages providing encouragement of successful repayment behavior on clients repayment of these debt burdens.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
1) Total debt paid;
2) DMP retention;
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1) On-time payment behavior
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Study participants will be assigned to one of three groups: 1) Control: These clients will not receive any treatment
2) Treatment (A) - Encouragement: Clients in the encouragement group will receive 6 additional email and SMS messages, if they are opted in to email and SMS messages, over the course of their DMP. These messages will congratulate the clients on their progress and encourage them to continue to make payments.
3) Treatment (B) – Debt Reframing: Clients in the reframing will receive 6 additional email and SMS messages over the course of their DMP, and they will have a personalized visualization added to their monthly statement. They will only receive these messages if they are opted-in to email and SMS messages. These messages will frame each payment within the context of discrete payment goals, most of which can accomplished within the first year of the DMP. These messages will also congratulate the clients on their progress and encourage them to continue to make payments.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization will be done using the last digit of a client's social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control - 1500 clients
Treatment (Encouragement) - 1500 clients
Treatment (Reframing) - 2000 clients
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
With power 0.8, a .05 significance threshold, and means and standard deviations calculated from a panel of DMP clients starting in 2016, the minimum detectable effect for each outcome is as follows for each treatment group:
Reframing - DMP drop-out after 12-months: 4.00 percentage points (.096 sd)
Encouragement - DMP Retention: 4.27 percentage points (.10 sd)
Reframing - Total Debt Paid after 12-months: $495.49 (.096 sd)
Encouragement - Total Debt Paid after 12-months: $528.93 (.10 sd)
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Innovations for Poverty Action
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number