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Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating

Author

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  • Loewenstein, George
  • Price, Joseph
  • Volpp, Kevin

Abstract

We present findings from a field experiment conducted at 40 elementary schools involving 8000 children and 400,000 child-day observations, which tested whether providing short-run incentives can create habit formation in children. Over a 3- or 5-week period, students received an incentive for eating a serving of fruits or vegetables during lunch. Relative to an average baseline rate of 39%, providing small incentives doubled the fraction of children eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables. Two months after the end of the intervention, the consumption rate at schools remained 21% above baseline for the 3-week treatment and 44% above baseline for the 5-week treatment. These findings indicate that short-run incentives can produce changes in behavior that persist after incentives are removed.

Suggested Citation

  • Loewenstein, George & Price, Joseph & Volpp, Kevin, 2016. "Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 47-54.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:45:y:2016:i:c:p:47-54
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2015.11.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James Heckman & Seong Hyeok Moon & Rodrigo Pinto & Peter Savelyev & Adam Yavitz, 2010. "Analyzing social experiments as implemented: A reexamination of the evidence from the HighScope Perry Preschool Program," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 1(1), pages 1-46, July.
    2. Heather Royer & Mark Stehr & Justin Sydnor, 2015. "Incentives, Commitments, and Habit Formation in Exercise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Workers at a Fortune-500 Company," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 51-84, July.
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    7. Gary Charness & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Incentives to Exercise," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(3), pages 909-931, May.
    8. Schofield, Heather & Loewenstein, George & Kopsic, Jessica & Volpp, Kevin G., 2015. "Comparing the effectiveness of individualistic, altruistic, and competitive incentives in motivating completion of mental exercises," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 286-299.
    9. J.J. Prescott & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2011. "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 161-206.
    10. David R. Just & Joseph Price, 2013. "Using Incentives to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(4), pages 855-872.
    11. repec:adr:anecst:y:2001:i:63-64:p:07 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. List, John A. & Samek, Anya Savikhin, 2015. "The behavioralist as nutritionist: Leveraging behavioral economics to improve child food choice and consumption," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 135-146.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Manuela Angelucci & Silvia Prina & Heather Royer & Anya Samek, 2015. "When Incentives Backfire: Spillover Effects in Food Choice," NBER Working Papers 21481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:9:p:3162-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Belot, Michèle & James, Jonathan & Nolen, Patrick, 2016. "Incentives and children's dietary choices: A field experiment in primary schools," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 213-229.
    4. Carrera, Mariana & Royer, Heather & Stehr, Mark & Sydnor, Justin & Taubinsky, Dmitry, 2018. "The limits of simple implementation intentions: Evidence from a field experiment on making plans to exercise," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 95-104.
    5. Itzik Fadlon & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2019. "Family Health Behaviors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(9), pages 3162-3191, September.
    6. Mariana Carrera & Heather Royer & Mark F. Stehr & Justin R. Sydnor, 2017. "The Structure of Health Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 23188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Augurzky, Boris & Bauer, Thomas K. & Reichert, Arndt R. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Tauchmann, Harald, 2018. "Habit formation, obesity, and cash rewards," Ruhr Economic Papers 750, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    8. Condliffe, Simon & Işgın, Ebru & Fitzgerald, Brynne, 2017. "Get thee to the gym! A field experiment on improving exercise habits," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 23-32.
    9. Kurz, Verena, 2018. "Nudging to reduce meat consumption: Immediate and persistent effects of an intervention at a university restaurant," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 317-341.
    10. repec:kap:jcopol:v:42:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s10603-018-9387-y is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Kurz, Verena, 2017. "Nudging to reduce meat consumption: Immediate and persistent effects of an intervention at a university restaurant," Working Papers in Economics 712, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Habit formation; Incentives; School lunch; Field experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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