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Can Financial Incentives Help People Trying to Establish New Habits? Experimental Evidence with New Gym Members

Author

Listed:
  • Carrera, Mariana

    () (Case Western Reserve University)

  • Royer, Heather

    () (University of California, Santa Barbara)

  • Stehr, Mark

    () (Drexel University)

  • Syndor, Justin

    () (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Abstract

We conducted a randomized controlled trial testing the effect of modest incentives to attend the gym among new members of a fitness facility, a population that is already engaged in trying to change a health behavior. Our experiment randomized 836 new members of a private gym into a control group, receiving a $30 payment unconditionally, or one of 3 incentive groups, receiving a payment if they attended the gym at least 9 times over their first 6 weeks as members. The incentives were a $30 payment, a $60 payment, and an item costing $30 that leveraged the endowment effect. These incentives had only moderate impacts on attendance during members' first 6 weeks and no effect on their subsequent visit trajectories. We document substantial overconfidence among new members about their likely visit rates and discuss how overconfidence may undermine the effectiveness of a modest incentive program.

Suggested Citation

  • Carrera, Mariana & Royer, Heather & Stehr, Mark & Syndor, Justin, 2017. "Can Financial Incentives Help People Trying to Establish New Habits? Experimental Evidence with New Gym Members," IZA Discussion Papers 10874, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10874
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Rohde, Kirsten I.M. & Verbeke, Willem, 2017. "We like to see you in the gym—A field experiment on financial incentives for short and long term gym attendance," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 388-407.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    endowment effect; incentives; exercise; overconfidence;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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