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Loose Knots: Strong Versus Weak Commitments to Save for Education in Uganda (WP-23-10)

Dean Karlan and Leigh Linden

Commitment devices offer an opportunity to restrict future choices. However, strict commitments may deter participation. Using a school-based commitment savings program for children to save for educational expenses in Uganda, Karlan and Linden compare an account fully committed to school expenses to an account with a weaker commitment (funds withdrawn in cash, rather than a voucher). Children save more in the weaker commitment treatment arm, and when combined with parental outreach spend more on educational supplies and score 0.11 standard deviations higher on math and language test scores. The fully committed account yields no such educational improvements, and neither account finds impacts on secondary or downstream outcomes such as attendance, enrollment, or non-cognitive skills.

Dean Karlan, Professor of Economics and Finance, Frederic Esser Nemmers Chair, and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Leigh Linden, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Texas at Austin

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