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

Listed author(s):
  • Carrera, Mariana

    ()

    (Case Western Reserve University)

  • Royer, Heather

    ()

    (University of California, Santa Barbara)

  • Stehr, Mark

    ()

    (Drexel University)

  • Syndor, Justin

    ()

    (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Registered author(s):

    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.

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    File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp10874.pdf
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    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 10874.

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    Length: 65 pages
    Date of creation: Jul 2017
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10874
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    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.
    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.
    3. Hengchen Dai & Katherine L. Milkman & Jason Riis, 2014. "The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(10), pages 2563-2582, October.
    4. 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.
    5. Cawley, John & Price, Joshua A., 2013. "A case study of a workplace wellness program that offers financial incentives for weight loss," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 794-803.
    6. 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.
    7. Philip S. Babcock & John L. Hartman, 2010. "Networks and Workouts: Treatment Size and Status Specific Peer Effects in a Randomized Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 16581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
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