Juan Manuel Hernandez-Agramonte,
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We study how non-monetary incentives, motivated by recent advances in behavioral economics, affect civil servant performance in a context where state capacity is weak. We collaborated with a government agency in Peru to experimentally vary the context of text messages targeted to civil servants in charge of a school maintenance program. These messages incorporated behavioral insights in dimensions related to information provision, social norms, and weak forms of monitoring and auditing. We find that these messages are a very cost-effective strategy to enforce compliance with national policies among civil servants. We further study the role of social norms and the salience of social benefits in a follow-up experiment and explore the external validity or our original results by implementing a related experiment with civil servants from a different national program. The findings of these new experiments support our original results and provide additional insights regarding the context in which these incentives may work. Our results highlight the importance of carefully designed non-monetary incentives as a tool to improve civil servant performance when the state lacks institutional mechanisms to enforce compliance.