Andrew Dustan, Juan Manuel Hernandez-Agramonte, Stanislao Maldonado
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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.
Omar Al-Ubaydli, John A List
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This is a review of the literature of field experimental studies of markets. The main results covered by the review are as follows: (1) Generally speaking, markets organize the efficient exchange of commodities; (2) There are some behavioral anomalies that impede efficient exchange; (3) Many behavioral anomalies disappear when traders are experienced.
Maya Haran Rosen , Orly Sade
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Define contribution mechanism combined with a dynamic job market can affect the sum of retirement savings and the choices of plans and products. Hence, it is important for regulators to engage servers to manage the accounts they accumulate over the years. In 2013-2014 the Israeli regulator reached out to the population, recommending the use of a website to help individuals find inactive retirement savings accounts and close them (withdraw the savings or transfer them to active accounts). The government's efforts did not result in the closure of most of the inactive accounts. Proprietary data indicate that those who closed the inactive accounts live in central locations with a higher socioeconomic index. Survey data indicate that those who lacked financial literacy and confidence in their financial knowledge were less likely to take financial actions. Using a controlled field experiment, we also provide evidence that an intervention with a human touch can promote greater involvement.
Indranil Goswami, Oleg Urminsky
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We present a complete empirical case study of fundraising decisions that demonstrates the importance of in-context field experiments. We first design novel matching-based fundraising appeals. We derive theory-based predictions from the standard impure altruism model and solicit expert opinion about the potential performance of our interventions. Both theory-based predictions and descriptive advice suggest improved fundraising performance from a framing intervention that credited donors for the matched funds (compared to a typical match framing). However, results from a natural field experiment with prior donors of a non-profit showed significantly poorer performance of this framing compared to a regularly framed matching intervention. This surprising finding was confirmed in a second natural field experiment, to establish the ground truth. Theoretically, our results highlight the limitations of both impure altruism models and of expert opinion in prediction complex "warm glow" motivation. More practically, our results question the availability of useful guidance, and suggest the indispensability of field testing for interventions in fundraising.
Indranil Goswami, Oleg Urminsky
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How does setting a donation option as the default in a charitable appeal affect people's decisions? In eight studies, comprising 11,508 participants making 2,423 donation decisions in both experimental settings and a large scale-natural field experiment, we investigate the effect of "choice-option" defaults on the donation rate, average donation amount, and the resulting revenue. We find (1) a "lower-bar" effect, where defaulting a low amount increases donation rate, (2) a "scale-back" effect where low defaults reduce average donation amounts and (3) a "default-distraction' effect, where introducing any defaults reduces the effect of other cues, such as positive charity information. Contrary to the view that setting defaults will backfire, defaults increased revenue in our field study. However, our findings suggest that defaults can sometimes be a "self-cancelling" intervention, with countervailing effects of default option magnitude on decisions and resulting in no net effect on revenue. We discuss the implications of our findings for research on fundraising specifically, for choice architecture and behavioral interventions more generally, as well as for the use of "nudges" in policy decisions.
Ran Kivetz, Oleg Urminsky, Yuhuang Zheng
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The goal-gradient hypothesis denotes the classic finding from behaviorism that animals expend more effort as they approach a reward. Building on this hypothesis, the authors generate new propositions for the human psychology of rewards. They test these propositions using a field experiment, secondary customer data, paper-and-pencil problems, and Tobit and logit models. The key finding indicate that (1) participants in a real cafe reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are to earning a free coffee; (2) Internet users who rate songs in return for reward certificates visit the rating Web site more often, rate more songs per visit, and persist longer in the rating effort as they approach the reward goal; (3) the illusion of progress toward the goal induces purchase acceleration (e.g., customers who receive a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting "bonus" stamps complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who receive a "regular" 10-stamp card) and (4) a stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster reengagement in the program. The conceptualization and empirical findings are captured by a parsimonious goal distance model, in which effort investment is a function of the proportion of original distance remaining to the goal. In addition, using statistical and experimental controls, the authors rule out alternative explanations for the observed goal gradients. They discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for incentive systems, promotions, and customer retention.
Shubha Chakravarty, Ran Kivetz, Plamen Nikolov
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No abstract available
Amanda Bayer, Syon Bhanot, Fernando Lozano
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No abstract available
Syon Bhanot
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Perception of peer rank, or how we can perform relative to out peers, can be a powerful motivator. While research exists on the effect of social information on decision making, there is less work on how ranked comparisons with our peers influence our behavior. This paper outlines a field experiment conducted with 3896 households in Castro Valley, California, which uses household mailers with various forms of social information and peer rank messaging to motivate water conservation. The experiment tests the effect of a visible peer rank on water use, and how the competitive framing of rank information influences behavioral response. The results show that households with relatively low or high water use in the pre-treatment period responded differently to how rank information was framed. I find that a neutrally-framed peer rank caused a small "boomerang effect" (i.e., an increase in average water use) for low water households, but this effect was eliminated by competitive framing. At the same time, a competitively-framed peer rank demotivated high water use households, increasing their average water use over the full period of the experiment. This result is supported by evidence that the competitive frame on rank information increased water use for households who ranked "last" in the peer group - a detrimental "last place effect" from competitively-framed rankings.
Syon Bhanot, Gordon Kraft-Todd, David Rand, Erez Yoeli
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We partnered with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to run a randomized experiment testing interventions to increase teacher participation in an annual feedback survey, an uncompensated task that requires a teacher's time but helps the educational system overall. Our experiment varied the nature of the incentive scheme used, and the associated messaging. In the experiment, all 8,062 active teachers in the SDP were randomly assigned to receive one of four emails using a 2x2 experimental design; specifically, teachers received a lottery-based financial incentive to complete the survey that was either "personal" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for themselves) or "social" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for supplies for their students), and also received email messaging that either did or did not make salient their identity as an educator. Despite abundant statistical power, we find no discernible differences across our conditions on survey completion rates. One implication of these null results is that from a public administration perspective, social rewards may be preferable since funds used for this purpose by school districts go directly to students (through increased expenditure on student supplies), and do not seem less efficacious than personal financial incentives for teachers.
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