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Public Policy Professor Examines Retirement Saving Behaviors among Hispanic Women

In an article published in Behavioural Public Policy, an international peer-reviewed journal focusing on the relationship between behavioral research and public policy, Luisa Blanco Raynal, associate professor of economics and public policy at Pepperdine School of Public Policy, examines the types of messaging Hispanic women respond to when served digital Facebook advertising about financial planning for retirement.

For the nearly two-year-long study, titled “Delivering information about retirement saving among Hispanic women: two Facebook experiments,” Blanco partnered with Luis M. Rodriguez, associate creative director of advertising agency Ogilvy, on two Facebook experiments, the first of which was conducted July 21–25, 2016, and the second April 22–25, 2018. In each instance, Blanco and Rodriguez developed Spanish ad copy specifically targeted to Hispanic women between the ages of 33–44 (Generation X) as well as the younger members of the baby boomer generation between the ages of 44–55. The researchers also selected women who either speak only Spanish or both Spanish and English and reside in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, the top four states with the largest percentages of Hispanics of Mexican origin.

“When I first started researching this topic, I found that a lot of Hispanics don’t have a retirement plan because they don’t plan to retire,” Blanco says. “I became invested in helping Hispanic women learn more about retirement because the married ones are more likely than their husbands to be in charge of their household’s financial and retirement planning.”

During the time frame of each experiment, the women were presented with three types of Facebook ads (translated here into English): Control, which provided a brief message and call to action: “Start to prepare for retirement today;” Treatment 1, which applied an injunctive norm (socially approved behavior) emphasizing peer influence and suggesting peer success: “Many Hispanic women like you already have a plan for retirement;” and Treatment 2, which conveyed an injunctive norm highlighting the importance of family: “Having a plan for retirement protects you and your family.”

Each ad contained a call-to-action link leading users to a mobile-friendly Spanish-language retirement planning website, yoplaneomiretiro.com, specifically designed to capture data for this experiment. Audience responses to the ad copy were measured by click-through rates, post-reaction and post-share data, and page likes. The website’s referral traffic data, filtered separately by each ad, was generated through Google Analytics.

After a detailed analysis of the two experiments’ results, Blanco and Rodriguez discovered that the ad copy featuring peer effects—a strategy that promoted self-empowerment—proved to be the most successful. These results provide invaluable insight to government officials, financial corporations, and researchers aiming to engage Hispanic women in retirement planning.

When examining the results of the two experiments, Blanco and Rodriguez contend in the published paper that the findings were surprising, as “we initially hypothesized that inherent cultural values might have a stronger influence among different racial and ethnic groups than pure peer effects. We were expecting that a message centered on the family would be more effective when talking about retirement planning, given the large literature on the importance of family networks among Hispanics of older ages.”

Blanco further explains that “These results are particularly beneficial for policymakers because they can gear their future campaigns to motivate minorities to prepare for retirement. They can also use this information to address the fact that minorities are less likely to work for employers who offer retirement saving accounts and help increase the number of Hispanic women saving for retirement by showing them that this is a commonplace strategy that they, too, can partake in.”

As a development economist with particular expertise in money management practices among Hispanics, Blanco’s funded research projects explore financial behavior and financial planning for retirement among minorities in the United States. She also leads the Mobile Money Diary Project, which collects data about financial behavior and health among Hispanics in California. Blanco has also conducted research specific to the Latin American region on issues related to economic development and policymaking, such as institutions, democracy, political instability, crime, capital accumulation, capital flows, financial development, inequality, and natural resources.  

Her work has been published in journals such as Journal of Consumer Affairs, World Development, Journal of Development Studies, Oxford Development Studies, Southern Economic Journal, and Latin American Research Review, among others.

Blanco’s latest research, recently posted in the Pepperdine School of Public Policy Working Papers series, conducted a community based randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of an educational intervention promoting retirement saving among predominantly low- and moderate-income Spanish-speaking Hispanics who do not have access to employer-sponsored retirement accounts. The intervention provided participants with key retirement and financial planning information in Spanish and encouraged participants to open my Retirement Accounts (myRA), a starter retirement savings account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for those whose employers do not offer retirement savings programs.