DP16810 Randomization for Causality, Ethnography for Mechanisms: Illiquid Savings for Liquor in an Autarkic Society

Author(s): Ricardo Godoy, Dean S. Karlan, Jonathan Zinman
Publication Date: December 2021
Date Revised: January 2022
Keyword(s): commitment savings, Mixed methods, native Amazonians, randomized evaluation, Temptation, Tsimane'
JEL(s): D12, I12, O15
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16810

What should researchers do when confronted with surprising results? Financial access innovations usually leave "temptation" spending unaffected or reduced. However, we found that promotion of savings lockboxes in a largely autarkic society increased alcohol consumption and blood pressure, despite no one reporting intentions to save for alcohol. To probe mechanisms that could explain this pattern, we then used ethnographic methods, including direct observations of drinking ("scans") and debriefing interviews to discuss the earlier trial results. We learn that sponsoring drinks confers prestige, but the stigma attached to drinking by outsiders likely discouraged reporting intentions to save for it.