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The Welfare Effects of Nudges: A Case Study of Energy Use Social Comparisons

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  • Hunt Allcott
  • Judd B. Kessler

Abstract

“Nudge”-style interventions are often deemed “successful” if they cause large behavior change, but they are rarely subjected to full social welfare evaluations. We combine a field experiment with a simple theoretical framework to evaluate the welfare effects of one especially policy-relevant intervention, home energy social comparison reports. In our sample, the reports increase social welfare, although traditional evaluation approaches overstate welfare gains by a factor of 3.7. Overall, the welfare gains from home energy reports might be overstated by $620 million. We develop a prediction algorithm for optimal targeting; this would double the welfare gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Hunt Allcott & Judd B. Kessler, 2015. "The Welfare Effects of Nudges: A Case Study of Energy Use Social Comparisons," NBER Working Papers 21671, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21671
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C44 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Operations Research; Statistical Decision Theory
    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy

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