Discipline: Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Research
Angelino Viceisza - Spelman College
It is well documented that migrant remittances are a significant driver of global development and serve as a pillar of economic stability (e.g. The World Bank 2015, Yang 2011). In fact, it is estimated that remittance flows to developing countries will reach US$ 479 billion in 2017 a number that far exceeds official development assistance. Nonetheless, sending remittances remains costly. The World Bank estimates that, as of 2014, the global average cost of sending US$ 200 held steady at 8 percent of the transaction value. In some instances, transfer fees may surpass 20 percent, leaving quite some money on the table. The creation of publicly available comparison databases containing detailed information on the costs, speed, and reliability of sending remittances has been identified as one of the most efficient means to achieve the above aims. At the same time, this requires such services to be simple and accessible. LoVoi et al. (2016) find that while migrants compare remittance fees across select brick-and-mortar providers, they do not necessarily compare that set to online/mobile providers, due to the complexity of online banking. This, despite the fact that online/mobile fees appear to be 20-30% lower than in-store. The above claim suggests that there are behavioral costs to search/comparison-shopping. This is supported by research in a range of fields including economics, marketing, psychology, and neuroscience. This study will partner with RemitRight (www.remitright.com, RR), which has built and maintains the first World Bank-certified metasearch web and mobile platform for online money transfers from the US to top remittance-receiving countries, to test behavioral foundations of comparison-shopping. This study’s main intellectual merit lies in the fact that it uses non-choice (neuro) data in the form of eye tracking (and facial expression) to unpack “the black box” of experimentally elicited, naturally occurring choice data in the form of actual migrant remittance decisions elicited through RR and its link with money transfer operators (MTOs). In so doing, the study sheds light on (1) the behavioral foundations of search, choice, and information (as argued by Caplin and Schotter 2010) in a context that generalizes to other forms of choice, (2) how neuroeconomic data can be used to improve site customization and online/mobile/comparison-shopping, and (3) the resulting welfare effects that could accrue to migrants and recipients. From a broader standpoint, the study will also provide evidence for whether and if so, how refined neureconomic data can be used to craft development policy and in turn, impact outcomes – a major gap in the literature at the intersection of development, experimental, and behavioral economics, as identified by Viceisza (2015).
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NSF Award Number 164992
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,