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The Structure of Health Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Listed author(s):
  • Mariana Carrera
  • Heather Royer
  • Mark F. Stehr
  • Justin R. Sydnor

The use of incentives to encourage healthy behaviors is increasingly widespread, but we have little evidence about how best to structure these programs. We explore how different incentive designs affect behavior on the extensive and intensive margins through an experiment offering incentives to employees of a Fortune 500 company to use their workplace gym. Overall the likelihood of joining the gym was not strongly affected by the incentive design. Notably, front-loading incentives to encourage initial participation was not more effective than an incentive kept constant over time. For those who were already at least occasional users of the gym, however, we find more evidence that the design of incentives matters. For this group, front-loading incentives appears to be detrimental relative to a constant incentive, but a novel design that spreads out the incentive budget by turning incentives on and off over a longer period of time is effective.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23188.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23188.

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Date of creation: Feb 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23188
Note: HC HE LS
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  1. 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.
  2. Uri Gneezy & Stephan Meier & Pedro Rey-Biel, 2011. "When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
  3. David R. Just & Joseph Price, 2013. "Using Incentives to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(4), pages 855-872.
  4. 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.
  5. Philip Babcock & Kelly Bedard & Gary Charness & John Hartman & Heather Royer, 2015. "Letting Down The Team? Social Effects Of Team Incentives," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(5), pages 841-870, October.
  6. Heather Royer & Mark F. Stehr & Justin R. Sydnor, 2012. "Incentives, Commitments and Habit Formation in Exercise: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Workers at a Fortune-500 Company," NBER Working Papers 18580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Katherine L. Milkman & Julia A. Minson & Kevin G. M. Volpp, 2014. "Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(2), pages 283-299, February.
  8. Loewenstein, George & Price, Joseph & Volpp, Kevin, 2016. "Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 47-54.
  9. 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.
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