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How Long Do Treatment Effects Last? Persistence and Durability of a Descriptive Norms Intervention's Effect on Energy Conservation

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  • Allcott, Hunt

    (NYU)

  • Rogers, Todd

    (Harvard University)

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    Abstract

    Behavioral decision research has profoundly changed our understanding of decision-making. Recent research has begun to explore how behavioral insights can influence behavior in the world, at scale. This work often involves field experiments studying outcomes over short time windows. We study a descriptive social norms intervention's impact on household energy usage continuously over 39 to 49 months. Our two field experiments (N=155,000 households) each have three conditions: untreated control, continued treatment, and treatment that is subsequently discontinued. We find that continued treatment reduces energy usage over the entire period ("durability"). Further, after treatment is discontinued, a sizable energy use reduction persists ("persistence"). Finally, continued treatment generates a greater impact over time than discontinued treatment, showing that continued treatment exerts incremental influence on behavior over and above persistence. We discuss implications, describe how long-term persistence can occur, and argue that future behavioral decision research should address long-term effects of interventions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp12-045.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-045

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    1. Noah J. Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini & Vladas Griskevicius, 2008. "A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 472-482, 03.
    2. 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.
    3. repec:reg:wpaper:320 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, . "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior - Testing ‘Conditional Cooperation’ in a Field Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 162, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    5. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    6. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
    7. Hunt Allcott & Michael Greenstone, 2012. "Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?," NBER Working Papers 17766, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Uri Gneezy & John A List, 2006. "Putting Behavioral Economics to Work: Testing for Gift Exchange in Labor Markets Using Field Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1365-1384, 09.
    9. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
    10. Hunt Allcott, 2012. "Site Selection Bias in Program Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 18373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Gary Charness & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Incentives to Exercise," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(3), pages 909-931, 05.
    12. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
    13. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2003. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 9873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Steven D. Levitt & John List & Sally Sadoff, 2012. "Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 18237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 48(Jun).
    16. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
    17. Hunt Allcott & Todd Rogers, 2012. "The Short-Run and Long-Run Effects of Behavioral Interventions: Experimental Evidence from Energy Conservation," NBER Working Papers 18492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. repec:hrv:hksfac:4415902 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
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