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The Unclaimed Property Puzzle: Billion Dollar Bills Lying on the Sidewalk
Last registered on May 26, 2020


Trial Information
General Information
The Unclaimed Property Puzzle: Billion Dollar Bills Lying on the Sidewalk
Initial registration date
May 25, 2020
Last updated
May 26, 2020 5:00 PM EDT

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Request Information
Primary Investigator
Australian National University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Currently, state governments in the United States hold billions of dollars in unclaimed properties. This represents a welfare-loss for the owners who fail to recover the amount that is owed to them. However, no studies to date have attempted to systematically investigate the types of unclaimed property owed, the demographics of the non-claimants, or their reasons for non-claiming. This study will document these basic facts and test the effectiveness of providing information and assistance in recovering the unclaimed property. Additionally, the study provides an opportunity to investigate the consequences of receiving a large positive income shock on outcomes such as debt and credit. A subset of participants will be further randomized into receiving a light touch nudge to use their recovered property to pay down any high-interest debts. This study will be the first to focus explicitly on unclaimed property and is expected to contribute to our understanding of the barriers to recovering it and its impact on financial health.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Vivalt, Eva. 2020. "The Unclaimed Property Puzzle: Billion Dollar Bills Lying on the Sidewalk." AEA RCT Registry. May 26. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5926-1.0.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Access to credit:
- Credit scores
- Trades per inquiry (approval rate)
- Credit limit on all revolving accounts
Credit utilization:
- Percent of revolving credit used
- Total debt
Delinquencies and bankruptcies:
- Number of delinquencies since the start of the treatment
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Individuals will be contacted and enrolled in the study. After conducting a baseline survey, they will be randomized into receiving information or not. Of those who receive the information, half will be further randomized into receiving a nudge. I will then use the fact that the individuals were randomly assigned to different groups to estimate the local average treatment effect of each treatment arm and, in turn, to estimate impacts on financial behavior.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done on a computer.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,260 individuals.
Sample size: planned number of observations
2,260 individuals.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,424 receive the information treatment, out of which 712 receive an additional nudge as to how to use their recovered funds, and 836 are in the control.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Australian National University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number