Francesco D'Acunto, Assistant Professor of Finance, Boston College: How Costly Are Cultural Biases? Evidence from FinTech

Time: 2021-12-08 10:00 Print

Topic: How Costly Are Cultural Biases? Evidence from FinTech

Speaker: Ing-Haw Cheng, Assistant Professor of Finance, Carroll School of Management, Boston College

Date: December 8, 2021 (Wednesday)

Time: 10:00am-11:30am

Location: 4-101

Language: English



We propose a unique field setting to assess the effects of cultural biases on high-stake economic decision-making—a leading Indian peer-to-peer lending platform paired with an automated robo-advising tool. Comparing the choices lending consumers (“lenders”) make with those proposed by the tool, we first confirm substantial in-group vs. out-group and implicit biases, which are stronger for lenders who reside where historical inter-ethnic and inter-caste animus is higher. We then document that cultural biases affect performance negatively: lenders face 14% higher default rates before debiasing and increase their returns by up to 7.3 percentage points after debiasing. The substantially higher risk of the marginal borrowers from favorite groups largely explains the worse performance of culturally-biased choices. Inaccurate statistical discrimination—biased beliefs about borrowers’ quality based on cultural norms—can explain our results better than taste-based discrimination, because economic incentives alone do not lead to debiasing, more biased lenders do not adopt the automated tool at different rates than others, and lenders barely override the tool’s suggestions to match with borrowers from discriminated groups.


About the Speaker:

Francesco D’Acunto is an assistant professor at the Boston College Carroll School of Management and a Kauffman Junior Faculty Fellow. His research interests are in the areas of beliefs and financial decision-making, FinTech, and inequality. His work has been awarded a best FinTech paper award at the 2021 WFA, two Cubist Systematic Strategies Awards for Outstanding Research, and has been covered in popular media outlets, such as The Economist, the Wall Street JournalBloomberg, the Washington PostThe American InterestReuters, as well as in international media outlets, such as the World Economic Forum, the Daily Mail, the Globe and MailDie WeltHaaretzLa StampaDinheiro Vivo, and Al Balad. Professor D’Acunto received his PhD and MSc in Finance from the University of California at Berkeley. Prior to joining the Carroll School, Professor D'Acunto spent three year as an assistant professor at the Smith School of Business of the University of Maryland.