We in Admissions like a good smackdown, so I jumped on the notice that the community was invited to participate in a feud that would also benefit research. Here’s the invitation:
This month, Kim Wilson is running a social experiment. For one week (March 30-April 6), students will give up either cash or cards.
Actually it’s slightly tougher than that: the cashless group cannot use money orders or checks, and the cardless group cannot use any electronic, mobile or web payments. Prizes include a drawing for a $100 prepaid card and dinner for you and three friends with Kim and two of hers. It’s not quite a randomized controlled trial, but we might learn something along the way. Please sign up and invite your friends to join. Students of Kim Wilson, Jenny Aker, John Hammock, and Karen Jacobsen are particularly encouraged to participate.
Second year MALD student, Betsy, is working as a research assistant on the project. While participants were still signing up, Betsy told me, “So far there seems to be some fear among students about ending up in the cardless group. One person even dropped out after learning that he couldn’t choose his group. I’m finding it interesting that nobody seems to think it would be a big deal to go without cash!”
But there was also worry about going cashless, particularly in the form of “What about paying my rent?” Prof. Wilson weighed in, “If you make a mistake during the contest, you are still eligible for the drawing, but you must own up to your transgression! Hint: Pay your rent ahead of time.”
Betsy also provided some context: “This is part of the larger Cost of Cash study. It obviously isn’t a formal experiment but we think it will yield some interesting insight about the costs (especially time/inconvenience costs) of different forms of payment. I also think it could prompt people to rely more heavily on their social networks, like bartering or asking someone to order them something online with a credit card in exchange for cash. We’ll see!”
Ben Mazzotta, the postdoctoral research fellow for inclusive growth at the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME), wrote up the contest rules, and he told me about other Fletcher work in this area. “Previously CEME held a conference titled Killing Cash, sponsored a talk from MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga titled “The Road to the Cashless Society,” and organized a conference in Kenya on the viral growth of M-PESA and efforts to replicate it worldwide.”
We’re midway through the Smackdown week. Check the Cost of Cash blog often and learn what it’s like to live without cash or credit in the U.S. today.