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Can Small Incentives Have Large Effects? The Impact of Taxes versus Bonuses on Disposable Bag Use

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  • Tatiana A. Homonoff

Abstract

This paper examines a simple element of financial incentive design—whether the incentive takes the form of a fee for bad behavior or a reward for good behavior—to determine if the framing of the incentive influences the policy's effectiveness. I investigate the effect of two similar policies aimed at reducing disposable bag use and a five-cent tax on disposable bag use and a five-cent bonus for reusable bag use. While the tax decreased disposable bag use by over forty percentage points, the bonus generated virtually no effect on behavior. These results are consistent with a model of loss aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Tatiana A. Homonoff, 2018. "Can Small Incentives Have Large Effects? The Impact of Taxes versus Bonuses on Disposable Bag Use," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 177-210, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:10:y:2018:i:4:p:177-210
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.20150261
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kosfeld, Michael, 2019. "The Role of Leaders in Inducing and Maintaining Cooperation: The CC Strategy," IZA Discussion Papers 12540, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Taylor, Rebecca L.C., 2019. "Bag leakage: The effect of disposable carryout bag regulations on unregulated bags," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 254-271.
    3. Cabrera, José María & Caffera, Marcelo & Cid, Alejandro, 2020. "Small Incentives May Have Large Effects: The Impact of Prices on the Demand for Plastic Bags," MPRA Paper 100178, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Laura Cornelsen & Matthew Quaife & Mylene Lagarde & Richard D. Smith, 2020. "Framing and signalling effects of taxes on sugary drinks: A discrete choice experiment among households in Great Britain," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(10), pages 1132-1147, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies

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