Cultivating Self-Control in FinTech: Evidence from a Field Experiment on Online Consumer Borrowing

Di Bu, Tobin Hanspal, Yin Liao, and Yong Liu

We report the results of a longitudinal intervention with students across five universities in China designed to reduce online consumer debt. Our research design allocates individuals to a self-control training program, a placebo financial literacy treatment, or a zero-touch control group. The self-control program features detailed tracking of spending and borrowing, budgeting, and introspection about consumption choices. These sessions reduce online borrowing and delinquency charges, mainly driven by a reduction in entertainment-related spending. Financial literacy interventions improve test scores but only marginally affect borrowing. Our results suggest that cultivating self-regulation can largely improve borrowing behavior on e-commerce platforms.