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Can Information Reduce Nonpayment for Public Utilities? Experimental Evidence from South Africa

  • Andrea Szabo

    ()

    (University of Houston)

  • Gergely Ujhelyi

    ()

    (University of Houston)

Nonpayment for public utilities is an important constraint to expanding service access in developing countries. As a potential policy response, this study implements and evaluates a randomized water education campaign in a low income peri-urban area in South Africa. We estimate substantial treatment effects: on the order of a 30% increase in payments over a three-month period. Surprisingly, these effects are not driven by an increase in households’ knowledge. We consider various possible explanations, and argue that the intervention likely had "nudging" effects on households. Our findings have important implications for understanding energy conservation and other public information campaigns.

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File URL: http://www.uh.edu/econpapers/RePEc/hou/wpaper/2014-114-31.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Houston in its series Working Papers with number 2014-114-31.

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Date of creation: 21 Apr 2014
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Handle: RePEc:hou:wpaper:2014-114-31
Contact details of provider: Postal: Houston TX 77023
Web page: http://www.uh.edu/class/economics/

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  1. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  2. Ian Ayres & Sophie Raseman & Alice Shih, 2013. "Evidence from Two Large Field Experiments that Peer Comparison Feedback Can Reduce Residential Energy Usage," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(5), pages 992-1022, October.
  3. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
  5. Katrina Jessoe & David Rapson, 2012. "Knowledge is (Less) Power: Experimental Evidence from Residential Energy Use," NBER Working Papers 18344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Petia Topalova & Shawn Cole & Xavier Gene & Jeremy Tobacman & Robert Townsend & James Vickery, 2011. "Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India," Working Papers id:4293, eSocialSciences.
  7. Bazart, C. & Bonein, A., 2014. "Reciprocal relationships in tax compliance decisions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 83-102.
  8. Shaun McRae, 2009. "Infrastructure Quality and the Subsidy Trap," Discussion Papers 09-017, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, revised Nov 2009.
  9. Michael Hallsworth & John List & Robert Metcalfe & Ivo Vlaev, 2014. "The Behavioralist As Tax Collector: Using Natural Field Experiments to Enhance Tax Compliance," NBER Working Papers 20007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. 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.
  11. Shawn Cole & Thomas Sampson & Bilal Zia, 2011. "Prices or Knowledge? What Drives Demand for Financial Services in Emerging Markets?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(6), pages 1933-1967, December.
  12. Madajewicz, Malgosia & Pfaff, Alexander & van Geen, Alexander & Graziano, Joseph & Hussein, Iftikhar & Momotaj, Hasina & Sylvi, Roksana & Ahsan, Habibul, 2007. "Can information alone change behavior? Response to arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 731-754, November.
  13. Jalan, Jyotsna & Somanathan, E., 2008. "The importance of being informed: Experimental evidence on demand for environmental quality," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 14-28, August.
  14. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
  15. Montek S. Ahluwalia, 2002. "Economic Reforms in India Since 1991: Has Gradualism Worked?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 67-88, Summer.
  16. Emmanuel Saez & Esther Duflo, 2003. "The role of information and social interactions in retirement plan decisions: Evidence from a randomized experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00141, The Field Experiments Website.
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