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The Behavioralist as Policy Designer: The Need to Test Multiple Treatments to Meet Multiple Targets

Author

Listed:
  • Robert Hahn
  • Robert D. Metcalfe
  • David Novgorodsky
  • Michael K. Price

Abstract

We explore Tinbergen’s fundamental insight that policymakers need at least as many policy instruments as targets. We extend this idea using a large natural field experiment in water resource management. We use social comparisons and loss-framed messages to help achieve two goals of our partner utility: getting consumers to purchase drought-resistant plants and reducing water use. Our results show that seemingly related behavioral instruments can affect different household decisions. By themselves, social comparisons and loss framing have no significant impact on the number of rebate requests; when combined, however, they lead to a 36% increase in requests. Only loss framing leads to a significant increase in the purchase of drought-resistant plants, and only the social comparison reduces water consumption. These results highlight the importance of testing different combinations of instruments, particularly when policymakers have multiple goals and the relationship between instruments and goals is uncertain.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Hahn & Robert D. Metcalfe & David Novgorodsky & Michael K. Price, 2016. "The Behavioralist as Policy Designer: The Need to Test Multiple Treatments to Meet Multiple Targets," NBER Working Papers 22886, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22886
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Romensen, Gert-Jan & Soetevent, Adriaan, 2017. "Tailored Feedback and Worker Green Behavior," Research Report 17016-EEF, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
    2. repec:zbw:rwipro:177816 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Adriaan (A.R.) Soetevent & Gert-Jan Romensen, 2017. "Tailored Feedback and Worker Green Behavior: Field Evidence from Bus Drivers," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-073/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. repec:eee:resene:v:53:y:2018:i:c:p:1-19 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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