NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Loose Knots: Strong versus Weak Commitments to Save for Education in Uganda

Dean Karlan, Leigh L. Linden

NBER Working Paper No. 19863
Issued in January 2014, Revised in April 2016
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Law and Economics, Labor Studies

Commitment devices offer an opportunity to restrict future choices. However, strict commitments may deter participation. Using a school-based commitment savings program for educational expenses in Uganda, we compare an account fully-committed to educational expenses to an account with a weaker commitment (funds withdrawn in cash, rather than a voucher). The weaker commitment generates higher account savings, and when combined with a parental outreach generates higher educational supplies expenditures and 0.11 standard deviation higher math and language test scores. We find no effect from the fully-committed account, and no effect for either account on attendance, enrollment, or non-cognitive skills.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19863

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