Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jonathan Conning


Karna Basu

Subject Categories

Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Labeling, Mental accounting, Microfinance, Randomized controlled trial, Savings, Self-control


I designed and implemented a Randomized Controlled Trial to study whether relatively simple modifications to how a commitment savings product was framed and labeled could affect savings accumulations and other outcomes of low-income individuals in newly formed Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in Colombia. Motivated by hypotheses from behavioral economics, the experiment tests hypotheses that behavioral responses should vary depending on whether subjects are led to label and create `mental savings accounts' in private or public ways. Individuals in the private-labeling treatment groups were led to label their savings as earmarked for a particular purpose and to state savings accumulation targets, information which was shared only privately with a member of the research team. Individuals in the public-labeling treatment groups received the same intervention but were then asked to publicly reveal and announce their chosen goals to other members of their savings group. The average treatment effects of the public-labeling intervention are very strong and significant. Savings accumulations increased by an average of 35% and savings goals were 8.5% more likely to be reached in comparison to those untreated. Further explorations strongly suggests evidence of differentiated behavioral responses of individuals in the private-labeling treatment group: private commitment to a savings goal is more effective for individuals who, after random assignment but prior to the intervention, had been measured to be less constrained by economic circumstances and institutional barriers. The analysis and interpretation of results was enriched by mixed methods for data collection: households' survey data, administrative records and qualitative data from focus groups discussions. Chapter 1 described the type of individuals that, being offered the option, decide to participate in VSLAs. Chapters 2 and 3 show how the interventions affect savings and other behaviors of individuals that participate in the interventions.

Included in

Economics Commons