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Information Architecture and Intertemporal Choice: A Randomized Field Experiment in the United States


In a randomized field experiment, I show that information architecture significantly affects individuals' spending and savings behavior. I present users of a large online account aggregation provider with a personalized financial index. This index represents the inflation-protected, lifetime monthly cash flow that they can obtain, given their personal financial and demographic information and current market prices. Users receiving this information tool reduce their spending by 10.7% relative to a control group. This effect is sensitive to the description of the index using a consumption frame rather than an investment frame and to the presentation of an explicit comparison between the index and historical spending levels. Further, spending reductions are primarily in large, infrequent transactions. This experiment is the first to directly affect overall spending behavior and to demonstrate the importance of information architecture in that context. It demonstrates the potential of low cost digital information tools to impact financial behavior on a large scale.

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