Brigitte C. Madrian

Brigitte C. Madrian
Harvard University | Harvard · Harvard Kennedy School of Government

About

96
Publications
20,644
Reads
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10,821
Citations
Additional affiliations
July 2006 - present
Harvard University
Position
  • Professor (Full)
July 2003 - June 2006
University of Pennsylvania
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
July 1993 - present
Education
September 1989 - June 1993
August 1984 - April 1989

Publications

Publications (96)
Article
Does automatic enrollment into a retirement plan increase financial distress due to increased borrowing outside the plan? We study a natural experiment created when the U.S. Army began automatically enrolling newly hired civilian employees into the Thrift Savings Plan. Four years after hire, automatic enrollment increases cumulative contributions t...
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Many Americans fail to get life-saving vaccines each year, and the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19 makes the challenge of encouraging vaccination more urgent than ever. We present a large field experiment ( N = 47,306) testing 19 nudges delivered to patients via text message and designed to boost adoption of the influenza vaccine. Our findin...
Article
Previous research has shown that some people voluntarily use commitment contracts that restrict their own choice sets. We study how people divide money between two accounts: a liquid account that permits unrestricted withdrawals and a commitment account that is randomly assigned in a between-subject design to have either a 10% early withdrawal pena...
Article
Home-delivered prescriptions have no delivery charge and lower copayments than prescriptions picked up at a pharmacy. Nevertheless, when home delivery is offered on an opt-in basis, the take-up rate is only 6%. We study a program that makes active choice of either home delivery or pharmacy pick-up a requirement for insurance eligibility. The progra...
Article
Objective: Assess whether a commitment contract informed by behavioral economics leads to persistent virologic suppression among HIV-positive patients with poor antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence. Design: Single-center pilot randomized clinical trial, plus a non-randomized control group. Setting: Publicly-funded HIV clinic in Atlanta, Geor...
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Background: Routine annual influenza vaccinations are recommended for persons 6 months of age and older, but less than half of US adults get vaccinated. Many employers offer employees free influenza vaccinations at workplace clinics, but even then take-up is low. Objective: To determine whether employees are significantly more likely to get vacc...
Article
Can governments increase private savings by taxing savings up front instead of in retirement? Roth 401(k) contributions are not tax-deductible in the contribution year, but withdrawals in retirement are untaxed. The more common before-tax 401(k) contribution is tax-deductible in the contribution year, but both principal and investment earnings are...
Article
We compare the liquidity that six developed countries have built into their employer-based defined contribution (DC) retirement schemes. In Germany, Singapore, and the UK, withdrawals are essentially banned no matter what kind of transitory income shock the household realizes. By contrast, in Canada and Australia, liquidity is state-contingent. For...
Article
What is the socially optimal level of liquidity in a retirement savings system? Liquid retirement savings are desirable because liquidity enables agents to flexibly respond to pre-retirement events that raise the marginal utility of consumption. On the other hand, pre-retirement liquidity is undesirable when it leads to under-saving arising from, f...
Article
The premise of this article is that an understanding of psychology and other social science disciplines can inform the effectiveness of the economic tools traditionally deployed in carrying out the functions of government, which include remedying market failures, redistributing income, and collecting tax revenue. An understanding of psychology can...
Article
The daunting complexity of important financial decisions can lead to procrastination. We evaluate a low-cost intervention that substantially simplifies the retirement savings plan participation decision. Individuals received an opportunity to enroll in a retirement savings plan at a pre-selected contribution rate and asset allocation, allowing them...
Article
To assess whether the addition of a peer testimonial to an informational mailing increases conversion rates from brand name prescription medications to lower-cost therapeutic equivalents, and whether the testimonial's efficacy increases when information is added about an affiliation the quoted individual shares with the recipient. A total of 5498 u...
Article
In this article we review the literature on financial literacy, financial education, and consumer financial outcomes. We consider how financial literacy is measured in the current literature, and examine how well the existing literature addresses whether financial education improves financial literacy or personal financial outcomes. We discuss the...
Article
Do laboratory subjects correctly perceive the dynamics of a mean-reverting time series? In our experiment, subjects receive historical data and make forecasts at different horizons. The time series process that we use features short-run momentum and long-run partial mean reversion. Half of the subjects see a version of this process in which the mom...
Article
In the U.S., 18,800 lives could be saved annually if those advised to obtain colorectal screenings based on national guidelines complied (Zauber et al., 2012). Subtle suggestions embedded in a decision-making environment can change people's choices (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). Past research has shown that prompting people to form plans about where...
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Including a matching contribution increases savings plan participation and contributions, although the impact is less significant than the impact of nonfinancial approaches. Conditional on participation, a higher match rate has only a small effect on savings plan contributions. In contrast, the match threshold has a substantial impact, probably bec...
Article
We study whether prompts to form and recall a plan can increase individuals’ responsiveness to reminders to make and attend beneficial appointments. At four companies, all employees due for a colonoscopy were randomly assigned to receive either a control mailing or a treatment mailing. The mailings were identical except that the control mailing inc...
Article
If individuals have self-control problems that lead them to spend money when they had previously planned to save it, they may take up financial commitment devices that restrict their future ability to access their funds. The authors experimentally investigate how the demand for commitment contracts is affected by contract design features. In their...
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We identify employees at seven companies whose 401(k) investment choices are dominated because they are contributing less than the employer matching contribution threshold despite being vested in their match and being able to make penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals for any reason because they are older than 59½. At the average firm, 36% of match-eligi...
Article
We measure how receiving information about coworkers’ savings behavior affects recipients’ savings choices. Low-saving employees were sent a simplified 401(k) plan enrollment or contribution increase form. A randomized subset of forms included information on the (high) fraction of coworkers either participating in or contributing at least 6% of pay...
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We evaluate the results of a field experiment designed to measure the effect of prompts to form implementation intentions on realized behavioral outcomes. The outcome of interest is influenza vaccination receipt at free on-site clinics offered by a large firm to its employees. All employees eligible for study participation received reminder mailing...
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We describe the pension plan features of the states and the largest cities and counties in the U.S. Unlike in the private sector, defined benefit (DB) pensions are still the norm in the public sector. However, a few jurisdictions have shifted toward defined contribution (DC) plans as their primary savings plan, and fiscal pressures are likely to ge...
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Many previous experiments have found that, consistent with myopic loss aversion, subjects invest more in risky assets if they are given less frequent feedback about their returns, are shown their aggregated portfolio-level (rather than separate asset-by-asset) returns, or are shown long-horizon (rather than one-year) historical asset class return d...
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The recent financial crisis has led many to question how well businesses deliver services and how well regulatory institutions address problems in consumer financial markets. This paper discusses consumer financial regulation, emphasizing the full range of arguments for regulation that derive from market failure and from limited consumer rationalit...
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Klopfer for their help in culling through many state, county and city pension documents, calling many public pension offices, and in compiling and analyzing the resulting data. We acknowledge financial support from the National Institute on Aging (grant R01-AG021650). The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors. Abstract:...
Article
The recent financial crisis has led many to question how well businesses deliver consumer financial services and how well regulatory institutions address problems in consumer financial markets. In response, the Obama administration proposed a new agency to oversee consumer financial services, and the recently enacted Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform a...
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We evaluate why individuals invest in high-fee index funds. In our experiments, subjects each allocate $10,000 across four S&P 500 index funds and are rewarded for their portfolio's subsequent return. Subjects overwhelmingly fail to minimize fees. We reject the hypothesis that subjects buy high-fee index funds because of bundled nonportfolio servic...
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Consistent with mental accounting, we document that investors sometimes choose the asset allocation for one account without considering the asset allocation of their other accounts. The setting is a firm that changed its 401(k) matching rules. Initially, 401(k) enrollees chose the allocation of their own contributions, but the firm chose the match...
Article
We show that individual investors over-extrapolate from their personal experience when making savings decisions. Investors who experience particularly rewarding outcomes from saving in their 401(k)-a high average and/or low variance return-increase their 401(k) savings rate more than investors who have less rewarding experiences with saving. This f...
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Defaults often have a large influence on consumer decisions. We identify an overlooked but practical alternative to defaults: requiring individuals to make explicit choices for themselves. We study such “active decisions” in the context of 401(k) saving. We find that compelling new hires to make active decisions about 401(k) enrollment raises the i...
Article
We use an experiment to estimate the effect of the SEC’s Summary Prospectus, which simplifies mutual fund disclosure. Our subjects chose an equity portfolio and a bond portfolio. Subjects received either statutory prospectuses or Summary Prospectuses. We find no evidence that the Summary Prospectus affects portfolio choices. Our experiment sheds ne...
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Consortium (RRC). The findings and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of SSA, the NIA, any other agency of the Federal Government, the NBER, or the RRC. We thank Hewitt Associates for providing data and insights into 401(k) loans from the perspective of a plan administrator. We are particularly grat...
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The research reported herein was pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium (RRC). The findings and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of SSA, the NIA, any other agency of the Federal Government, the NBER, or the RRC. W...
Article
Revealed preferences are tastes that rationalize an economic agent's observed actions. Normative preferences represent the agent's actual interests. It sometimes makes sense to assume that revealed preferences are identical to normative preferences. But there are many cases where this assumption is violated. We identify five factors that increase t...
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We document a flypaper effect in asset allocation: securities received in kind "stick where they hit." We study a firm that twice changed the rules governing the securities in which its 401(k) matching contributions were initially invested. Both of these rule changes were economically neutral: employees were always free to immediately reallocate th...
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This paper summarizes the empirical evidence on how defaults impact retirement savings outcomes. After outlining the salient features of the various sources of retirement income in the U.S., the paper presents the empirical evidence on how defaults impact retirement savings outcomes at all stages of the savings lifecycle, including savings plan par...
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We describe a regulatory framework that helps consumers who have difficulty sticking to their own long-run plans. Early Decision regulations help long-run preferences prevail by allowing consumers to partially commit to their long-run goals, making it harder for a momentary impulse to reverse past decisions. In the cigarette market, examples of Ear...
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This paper provides a broad and general overview of the relationship between the U.S. health care system and the labor market. The paper first describes some of the salient features of and facts about the system of health insurance coverage in the U.S., particularly the role of employers. It then summarizes the empirical evidence on how health insu...
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The complexity of the retirement savings decision may overwhelm employees, encouraging procrastination and reducing 401(k) enrollment rates. We study a low-cost manipulation designed to simplify the 401(k) enrollment process. Employees are given the option to make a Quick Enrollment(TM) election to enroll in their 401(k) plan at a pre-selected cont...
Article
We thank Hewitt Associates for providing the data and for their help in designing, conducting, and processing the survey analyzed in this paper. We are particularly grateful to Lori Lucas, Yan Xu, and Mary Ann Armatys, some of our many contacts at Hewitt Associates, for their feedback on this project. Outside of Hewitt, we have benefited from the c...
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It is typically difficult to determine whether households invest optimally. But sometimes, investment incentives are strong enough to create sharp normative restrictions. We identify employees at seven companies who are eligible to receive employer matching contributions in their 401(k) and can make penalty-free withdrawals for any reason. For thes...
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Economics, 1993. Includes bibliographical references. by Brigitte Condie Madrian. Ph.D.
Article
This session will explore the impact of the U.S. health care system on U.S. labor markets. ; Why do employers believe that rising health care costs are a major cause for concern when economists insist that workers are the ones who actually bear the costs? What are the implications of large health care liabilities for the long-run viability of U.S....
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The collapse of Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossing wiped out much of their employees’ 401(k) savings, which had been heavily invested in employer stock. In response, bills have been proposed in Congress that would give employees the right to sell the employer stock in their 401(k), or that would require companies to educate their workers about th...
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This paper shows that increases in the minimum wage rate can have ambiguous effects on the working hours and welfare of employed workers in competitive labor markets. The reason is that employers may not comply with the minimum wage legislation and instead pay a lower subminimum wage rate. If workers are risk neutral, we prove that working hours an...
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We assess the impact on savings behavior of several different 401(k) plan features, including automatic enrollment, automatic cash distributions, employer matching provisions, eligibility requirements, investment options, and financial education. We also present new survey evidence on individual savings adequacy. Many of our conclusions are based o...
Article
Corruption in the public sector erodes tax compliance and leads to higher tax evasion. Moreover, corrupt public officials abuse their public power to extort bribes from the private agents. In both types of interaction with the public sector, the private agents are bound to face uncertainty with respect to their disposable incomes. To analyse effect...
Conference Paper
Employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs) are designed to promote employee stock ownership broadly within the firm and provide another tax-deferred vehicle for individual capital accumulation in addition to traditional pensions, 401(k)s, and stock options. We outline the individual and corporate tax treatment Of ESPPs and the circumstances under which...
Article
We assess the impact of 401(k) plan design on four different 401(k) savings outcomes: participation in the 401(k) plan, the distribution of employee contribution rates, asset allocation, and cash distributions. We show that plan design can have an important effect on all of these savings outcomes. This suggests an important role for both employers...
Article
Employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs) are designed to promote employee stock ownership broadly within the firm and provide another tax-deferred vehicle for individual capital accumulation in addition to traditional pensions, 401(k)s, and stock options. We outline the individual and corporate tax treatment of ESPPs and the circumstances under which...
Article
Corruption in the public sector erodes tax compliance and leads to higher tax evasion. Moreover, corrupt public officials abuse their public power to extort bribes from the private agents. In both types of interaction with the public sector, the private agents are bound to face uncertainty with respect to their disposable incomes. To analyse effect...
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Full-text available
Default options have an enormous impact on household choices.' Defaults matter because opting out of a default is costly and these costs change over time, generating an option value of waiting. In addition, people have a tendency to procrastinate. We develop a theory of optimal defaults based on these considerations. We find that it is sometimes op...
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some of our many contacts at Hewitt. We also appreciate many helpful conversations with Harlan Fleece, and the diligent research assistance of seminar participants at the University of Chicago, Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, USC, Wharton, Dartmouth, the Russell Sage Foundation and the NBER have provided much useful feedback. Choi acknowledges financial su...
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Full-text available
We assess the impact on savings behavior of several different 401(k) plan features, including automatic enrollment, automatic cash distributions, employer matching provisions, eligibility requirements, investment options, and financial education. We also present new survey evidence on individual savings adequacy. Many of our conclusions are based o...
Article
Full-text available
This paper provides a critical review of the empirical literature on the relationship between health insurance, labor supply, and job mobility. We review over 50 papers on this topic, almost exclusively written in the last 10 years. We reach five conclusions. First, there is clear and unambiguous evidence that health insurance is a central determin...