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Child Benefit Support and Method of Payment: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Belgium


  • Marieke Huysentruyt
  • Eva Lefevere


We examine the effects of information and information presentation format on individuals' choice of payment method in a large randomized experiment carried out with the Belgian National Office for Family Benefits. We find that a one-time mailing providing information about method of payment for child benefit support caused a fourfold increase in parents' decision to switch from payment by check to electronic payment. Simple, low-cost supplements significantly raised people's responsiveness to the mailing. Our results suggest that complexity and information (processing) costs pose significant barriers to transitioning to electronic payment methods, and that deliberate efforts to lower these costs can contribute to large behavioral changes. (JEL D83, J13)

Suggested Citation

  • Marieke Huysentruyt & Eva Lefevere, 2010. "Child Benefit Support and Method of Payment: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Belgium," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 163-184, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:2:y:2010:i:2:p:163-84 Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.2.2.163

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
    2. Anna Aizer, 2003. "Low Take-Up in Medicaid: Does Outreach Matter and for Whom?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 238-241, May.
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    4. Justine S. Hastings & Jeffrey M. Weinstein, 2008. "Information, School Choice, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Two Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1373-1414.
    5. Beth Osborne Daponte & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 1999. "Why Do Low-Income Households not Use Food Stamps? Evidence from an Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(3), pages 612-628.
    6. Anna Aizer, 2007. "Public Health Insurance, Program Take-Up, and Child Health," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 400-415, August.
    7. Henrik Jacobsen Kleven & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2011. "Transfer Program Complexity and the Take-Up of Social Benefits," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 54-90, February.
    8. Janet Currie, 2004. "The Take Up of Social Benefits," NBER Working Papers 10488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Dhar, Ravi & Nowlis, Stephen M, 1999. " The Effect of Time Pressure on Consumer Choice Deferral," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(4), pages 369-384, March.
    10. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Body, 2014. "When Is Speech Silver and Silence Golden ?A Field Experiment on an Information Campaign," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2014-32, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    2. Wahid Abdallah, 2017. "Electronic filing System, Bureaucratic Efficiency and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from Bangladesh," Working Papers id:12223, eSocialSciences.
    3. Raf Van Gastel & Tim Goedemé & Julie Janssens & Eva Lefevere & Rik Lemkens, 2017. "A Reminder to Pay Less for Healthcare: take-up of Increased Reimbursement in a large-scale randomized field experiment," Working Papers 1712, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    4. Stephan, Gesine & van den Berg, Gerard & Homrighausen, Pia, 2016. "Randomizing information on a targeted wage support program for older workers: A field experiment," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145487, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth


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