• Ashley Whillans


2020, Paper: "Using a multi-method approach, we investigate whether income volatility is associated with financial impatience—the preference to receive a small sum of money immediately over a larger sum of money later. We find that experiencing more income volatility—including a higher frequency of either income dips or spikes – is associated with greater financial impatience. Using longitudinal data on biannual income, Study 1 demonstrates that this effect operates above and beyond individual differences in income risk preferences and wealth. Study 2 conceptually replicates these correlational findings with recent month-to-month income volatility and finds that this effect occurs primarily among people who report having little control over their finances. Using a longitudinal field experimental with low-income working women, Study 3 tests for a causal effect of an externally-induced spike in monthly income on changes in financial impatience. In a pre-post test experimental design, participants randomly assigned to receive cash transfers amounting to a median monthly income spike of 29% exhibit significantly greater financial impatience compared to a control condition in which participants receive no cash transfers. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for employers and policymakers."

Non-HKS Author Website - Ashley Whilians