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Testing for crowd out in social nudges: Evidence from a natural field experiment in the market for electricity


  • Alec Brandon

    (Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637)

  • John A. List

    (Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637)

  • Robert D. Metcalfe

    (Questrom School of Business, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215)

  • Michael K. Price

    (Department of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487)

  • Florian Rundhammer

    (Department of Economics, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302)


This study considers the response of household electricity consumption to social nudges during peak load events. Our investigation considers two social nudges. The first targets conservation during peak load events, while the second promotes aggregate conservation. Using data from a natural field experiment with 42,100 households, we find that both social nudges reduce peak load electricity consumption by 2 to 4% when implemented in isolation and by nearly 7% when implemented in combination. These findings suggest an important role for social nudges in the regulation of electricity markets and a limited role for crowd out effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Alec Brandon & John A. List & Robert D. Metcalfe & Michael K. Price & Florian Rundhammer, 2019. "Testing for crowd out in social nudges: Evidence from a natural field experiment in the market for electricity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116(12), pages 5293-5298, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:nas:journl:v:116:y:2019:p:5293-5298

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    2. Baumol,William J. & Oates,Wallace E., 1988. "The Theory of Environmental Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521322249, October.
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    2. George Joseph & Sophie Ayling & Pepita Miquel-Florensa & Hernán D. Bejarano & Alejandra Quevedo Cardona, 2022. "Behavioral Insights in Infrastructure Sectors: A Survey," Working Papers 119, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).
    3. Riehm, Tobias & Fugger, Nicolas & Gillen, Philippe & Gretschko, Vitali & Werner, Peter, 2022. "Social norms, sanctions, and conditional entry in markets with externalities: Evidence from an artefactual field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 212(C).
    4. Wang, Wenjie & Ida, Takanori & Shimada, Hideki, 2020. "Default effect versus active decision: Evidence from a field experiment in Los Alamos," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    5. Brülisauer, Marcel & Goette, Lorenz & Jiang, Zhengyi & Schmitz, Jan & Schubert, Renate, 2020. "Appliance-specific feedback and social comparisons: Evidence from a field experiment on energy conservation," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).
    6. Ghesla, Claus & Grieder, Manuel & Schmitz, Jan & Stadelmann, Marcel, 2020. "Pro-environmental incentives and loss aversion: A field experiment on electricity saving behavior," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    7. Kenneth Gillingham & Bryan Bollinger, 2020. "Social Learning and Solar Photovoltaic Adoption," CESifo Working Paper Series 8434, CESifo.
    8. Kayo MURAKAMI & Hideki SHIMADA & Yoshiaki USHIFUSA & Takanori IDA, 2020. "Heterogeneous Treatment Effects of Nudge and Rebate:Causal Machine Learning in a Field Experiment on Electricity Conservation," Discussion papers e-20-003, Graduate School of Economics , Kyoto University.
    9. Chiara Sotis & Miriam Allena & Renny Reyes & Alessandro Romano, 2021. "COVID-19 Vaccine Passport and International Traveling: The Combined Effect of Two Nudges on Americans’ Support for the Pass," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(16), pages 1-17, August.
    10. Boun My, Kene & Nguyen-Van, Phu & Kim Cuong Pham, Thi & Stenger, Anne & Tiet, Tuyen & To-The, Nguyen, 2022. "Drivers of organic farming: Lab-in-the-field evidence of the role of social comparison and information nudge in networks in Vietnam," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 196(C).
    11. Chi L. Ta, 2021. "Theoretical and Empirical Evaluation of a Competitive Energy Rebate Program," CESifo Working Paper Series 8948, CESifo.
    12. Timilsina, Raja R. & Kotani, Koji & Nakagawa, Yoshinori & Saijo, Tatsuyoshi, 2022. "Intragenerational deliberation and intergenerational sustainability dilemma," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C).
    13. Cascavilla, Alessandro, 2022. "Does climate change concern alter tax morale preferences? Evidence from an Italian survey," MPRA Paper 113039, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. d'Adda, Giovanna & Galliera, Arianna & Tavoni, Massimo, 2020. "Urgency and engagement: Empirical evidence from a large-scale intervention on energy use awareness," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    15. James R. Meldrum & Hannah Brenkert-Smith & Patricia A. Champ & Jamie Gomez & Hilary Byerly & Lilia Falk & Christopher M. Barth, 2021. "Would you like to know more? The effect of personalized wildfire risk information and social comparisons on information-seeking behavior in the wildland–urban interface," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 106(3), pages 2139-2161, April.
    16. Jessoe, Katrina & Lade, Gabriel E. & Loge, Frank & Spang, Edward, 2021. "Residential water conservation during drought: Experimental evidence from three behavioral interventions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 110(C).
    17. Wang, Pengyu & Fang, Debin & Wang, Shuyi, 2022. "Optimal dynamic regulation in retail electricity market with consumer feedback and social learning," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 168(C).
    18. Spandagos, Constantine & Baark, Erik & Ng, Tze Ling & Yarime, Masaru, 2021. "Social influence and economic intervention policies to save energy at home: Critical questions for the new decade and evidence from air-condition use," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    19. Jesse Burkhardt & Kenneth Gillingham & Praveen K. Kopalle, 2019. "Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Information and Pricing on Residential Electricity Consumption," NBER Working Papers 25576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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