Project: The financial and administrative burden of financially vulnerable households

2015-2021 (completed)


A substantial part of households in developed countries is financially vulnerable. These households face financial problems or are financially at risk for shocks in income or expenditures. Financially vulnerable households face financial burdens as managing their household finances is complex, requires ongoing attention, and may evoke worries, anxiety, and stress. Beyond financial burdens, financially vulnerable households may also encounter administrative burdens (learning, compliance, and psychological costs) in their interactions with the government. This dissertation aims at gaining insight into sources, consequences, and potential solutions for the financial and administrative burden faced by financially vulnerable households.


The results of this dissertation contribute to financial burden research in several respects. We show that difficulties with making ends meet and low income act as primary sources of financial worry and rumination. Additionally, our literature review confirms that financial scarcity creates specific psychological mechanisms and subsequently affects borrowing and consumption decisions. Evidence that financial scarcity affects economic decision making via cognitive load is mixed at best. Furthermore, our findings confirm that behaviorally informed financial education can be effective although its potential in alleviating financial burden seems to be limited.

In examining administrative burden, this dissertation has focused on subjective regulatory burden experienced by social benefit claimants. Our findings confirm that both state actions and psychological factors contribute to experiencing subjective regulatory burden. Remarkably, exempting social assistance claimants from labor and reintegration requirements did not significantly reduce their levels of subjective regulatory burden.


I discuss the implications of these findings for the psychology of poverty literature and the debate about objective and subjective poverty. Additionally, I propose some potential alternative sources, consequences, and solutions for administrative burden, describe the limitations of this dissertation, and provide directions for future research. The findings presented in this dissertation result in some practical recommendations and considerations for addressing the financial and administrative burden experienced by financially vulnerable households.



Ernst-Jan de Bruijn
Gerrit Antonides (Supervisor)
en_GBEnglish (UK)