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The Persistence of Treatment Effects with Norm-Based Policy Instruments: Evidence from a Randomized Environmental Policy Experiment


  • Paul J. Ferraro
  • Juan Jose Miranda
  • Michael K. Price


Policymakers increasingly use norm-based messages to promote conservation efforts. Despite the apparent success of such strategies, empirical analyses have thus far focused exclusively on short-run effects. From a policy perspective, however, whether and how such strategies influence behavior in the long-run is of equal interest. We partner with a metropolitan water utility to implement a natural field experiment examining the effect of such messages on longer-run patterns of water use. Empirical results are striking. While appeals to pro-social preferences affect short-run patterns of water use, only messages augmented with social comparisons have a lasting impact on water demand.

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  • 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 318-322, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:318-22

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ian Ayres & Sophie Raseman & Alice Shih, 2009. "Evidence from Two Large Field Experiments that Peer Comparison Feedback Can Reduce Residential Energy Usage," NBER Working Papers 15386, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Paul J. Ferraro & Michael K. Price, 2013. "Using Nonpecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 64-73, March.
    3. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 472-482, March.
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