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«FIVE STEPS TO PLANNING SUCCESS. EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE FROM U.S. HOUSEHOLDS Aileen Heinberg, Angela Hung, Arie Kapteyn, Annamaria Lusardi, Anya ...»

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VI. Discussion and Future Work In this paper, we designed and evaluated a financial education program that demonstrably increased participants’ objective knowledge and self-efficacy. Importantly, our field experiment approach allowed us to conclude that the improvements we saw in the treatment groups were caused by the Five Steps program or by the particular format tested. Our results show that given the very minimal time respondents spent watching the videos or reading the narratives (each of the videos or narratives takes about three minutes), Five Steps has sizable short-run effects on objective measures of respondent knowledge. Moreover, keeping informative content relatively

constant, format has significant effects on other psychological levers of behavioral change:

effects on motivation and self-efficacy are significantly higher when videos are used, which ultimately influence knowledge acquisition.

It is important to reiterate that the experiment at this stage measures only outcomes related to objective knowledge and self-efficacy. The focus group discussions suggest that in general, the written narratives may promote knowledge retention but videos may more strongly motivate action and behavior change; this remains a possibility to be tested in future work. Ultimately, the goal of this study is to examine effects on behavior, with outcomes to be collected in a follow-up survey. Empirical findings suggest that self-efficacy and behavior are related, although the causal relationships are not well-established: measures of self-efficacy have been found to be correlated with health behavior (e.g., Kreuter et al., 1999; Strecher et al., 1986; Gillis, 1993; Holden, 1991) as well as in other domains (Stajkovic and Luthans, 1998), including finance (Gutter, Copur, and Garrison, 2009). There is some evidence that suggests financial education programs can increase financial self-efficacy, and ultimately behavioral change (e.g., Sanders et al., 2007; Shockey and Seiling, 2004).

In general, the program presented is an example of how field experiments can contribute to better understanding of the effectiveness of financial literacy interventions. As noted in the introduction, part of the reason for the mixed results in related work is the lack of rigorous evaluation. Field experiments are an ideal policy tool for gaining causal inference in this, as well as in other domains. Future work should focus on using field experiments to investigate which components of educational interventions are most effective.


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Table 1: Percentage of correct responses to each question at baseline by gender, age, income, and education (Y0).

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