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Heterogeneous Responses to Social Norms for Water Conservation

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  • Brent, Daniel A.
  • Cook, Joseph H.
  • Olsen, Skylar
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    Abstract

    Utilizing social norms is gaining momentum as a cost-e ective mechanism to pro- mote sustainable behavior. We analyze household water data from multiple pilot programs for a company that provides information campaigns containing social comparisons of water use and per- sonalized conservation recommendations in order to reduce household water consumption. We nd signi cant treatment e ect heterogeneity across the distribution of consumption and environmental attitudes. In the two pilots with a full year of data one utility achieves savings of 6.5%; while the other in aggregate achieved limited conservation gains. Heterogeneity based on the distribution of consumption is more important in the utility with signi cant savings, with the highest users saving the most water. In contrast ideology appears to be more important in the utility with an insignif- icant average treatment e ect with dis-savings for those with very low environmental preferences and strong savings for the most environmentally-conscious. Inter-regional ideology may play an critical role since the utility with signi cant savings is in a much "greener" community, whereas intra-utility ideology is in uential in conservative areas. We caution interpretation of the results, particularly for Utility B, as the data are still incomplete.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. with number 149697.

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    Date of creation: May 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:149697

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    Keywords: Water demand; Social norms; Behavioral economics; Water conservation; Consumer/Household Economics; Public Economics; Q21; Q25; Q54;

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    1. R. Quentin Grafton & Michael B. Ward, 2008. "Prices versus Rationing: Marshallian Surplus and Mandatory Water Restrictions," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(s1), pages S57-S65, 09.
    2. Andrew C. Worthington & Mark Hoffman, 2008. "An Empirical Survey Of Residential Water Demand Modelling," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(5), pages 842-871, December.
    3. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2013. "Energy Conservation “Nudges” And Environmentalist Ideology: Evidence From A Randomized Residential Electricity Field Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 680-702, 06.
    4. Ferraro, Paul J. & Miranda, Juan José, 2013. "Heterogeneous treatment effects and mechanisms in information-based environmental policies: Evidence from a large-scale field experiment," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 356-379.
    5. Elster, Jon, 1989. "Social Norms and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 99-117, Fall.
    6. Jasper M. Dalhuisen & Raymond J. G. M. Florax & JHenri L. F. de Groot & Peter Nijkamp, 2003. "Price and Income Elasticities of Residential Water Demand: A Meta-Analysis," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 79(2), pages 292-308.
    7. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2007. "Heuristics and Biases in Retirement Savings Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(3), pages 81-104, Summer.
    8. Paul J. Ferraro & Juan Jose Miranda & Michael K. Price, 2011. "The Persistence of Treatment Effects with Norm-Based Policy Instruments: Evidence from a Randomized Environmental Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 318-22, May.
    9. Koenker, Roger, 2004. "Quantile regression for longitudinal data," Journal of Multivariate Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 74-89, October.
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