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South Africa Project: Safety Pilot

ideas42

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We developed a prototype tool and tested it with young people from Cape Town’s Cape Flats neighborhoods. We wanted to assess whether it was more effective than the traditional approach of improving safety awareness in two respects: • Improving how “safe” the young people reported feeling. • Reducing the number of violent events they experienced in the past week. The tool had powerful effects. A randomized controlled trial found that young people in the treatment group were half as likely as the control group to participate in unsafe activities by the end of the study. The treatment population was also almost half as likely as the control group to report feeling unsafe, and half as likely to report experiencing violence in the past week.These results have significant implications for how we think about improving safety and reducing crime. In many parts of the world violent crime is a serious problem, with policy makers and practitioners alike looking to increased investment in enforcement as a way of mitigating the problem. This pilot project illustrates that supporting targeted decision-making and planning for both potential victims and perpetrators has the potential to significantly reduce violent crime.

 


Campaigns Against Vote-Selling in the Philippines: Do Promises Work?

Hicken A

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Vote-buying and vote-selling obstruct the democratic process, yet they remain pervasive in many developing democracies. Researchers asked voters in the Philippines to make a simple, unenforceable promise not to accept money from politicians or to promise to vote according to their conscience, even if they do accept money, to test the impact of promises on voters’ behavior. A majority of respondents made promises not to sell their votes. Researchers found that the promise significantly reduced vote-selling, cutting the number of people who sold their votes by 11 percentage points in the smallest-stakes election, but was not effective in the mayoral election with higher pay-outs. These results suggest that simply asking voters to promise not to sell votes can help reduce vote-selling in elections where vote-buying payments are typically small.

 


Potential follow-up increases private contributions to public goods

Rogers T, Ternovski J, Yoeli E

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People contribute more to public goods when their contributions are made more observable to others. We report an intervention that subtly increases the observability of public goods contributions when people are solicited privately and impersonally (e.g., mail, email, social media). This intervention is tested in a large-scale field experiment (n=770,946) in which people are encouraged to vote through get-out-the-vote letters. We vary whether the let-ters include the message, “We may call you after the election to ask about your voting experience.” Increasing the perceived ob-servability of whether people vote by including that message increased the impact of the get-out-the-vote letters by more than the entire effect of a typical get-out-the-vote letter. This tech-nique for increasing perceived observability can be replicated whenever public goods solicitations are made in private.

 


Text Messages as Mobilization Tools: The Conditional Effect of Habitual Voting and Election Salience

Malhotra N, Michelson MR, Rogers T, Valenzuela A

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Dale and Strauss’s (DS) noticeable reminder theory (NRT) of voter mobili­zation posits that mobilization efforts that are highly noticeable and salient to potential voters, even if impersonal, can be successful. In an innovative experimental design, DS show that text messages substantially boost turnout, challenging previous claims that social connectedness is the key to increasing participation. We replicate DS’s research design and extend it in two key ways. First, whereas the treatment in DS’s experiment was a “warm” text message combined with contact, we test NRT more cleanly by examining the effect of “cold” text messages that are completely devoid of auxiliary interaction. Second, we test an implication of NRT that habitual voters should exhibit the largest treatment effects in lower salience elections whereas casual voters should exhibit the largest treatment effects in higher salience elections. Via these two extensions, we find support for NRT.

 


Don’t Blame the Messenger: A Field Experiment on Delivery Methods for Increasing Tax Compliance

Ortega D, Scartascini C

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There is an ample literature on the determinants of tax compliance. Several field experiments have evaluated the effect and comparative relevance of sending deterrence and moral suasion messages to taxpayers. The effect of different delivery mechanisms, however, has not been evaluated so far. This study conducts a field experiment in Colombia that varies the way the National Tax Agency contacts taxpayers on payments due for income, value added, and wealth taxes. More than 20,000 taxpayers were randomly assigned to a control or one of three delivery mechanisms (letter, email, and personal visit by a tax inspector). Results indicate large and highly significant effects, as well as sizable differences across delivery methods. A personal visit by a tax inspector is more effective than a physical letter or an email, conditional on delivery, but email tends to reach its target more often. Improving the quality of taxpayer contact information can significantly improve the collection of delinquencies.

 


Do You Have a Voting Plan? Implementation Intentions, Voter Turnout, and Organic Plan Making

Nickerson DW, Rogers T

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Phone calls encouraging citizens to vote are staples of modern campaigns. Insights from psychological science can make these calls dramatically more potent while also generating opportunities to expand psychological theory. We present a field experiment conducted during the 2008 presidential election (N = 287,228) showing that facilitating the formation of a voting plan (i.e., implementation intentions) can increase turnout by 4.1 percentage points among those contacted, but a standard encouragement call and self-prediction have no significant impact. Among single-eligible-voter households, the formation of a voting plan increased turnout among persons contacted by 9.1 percentage points, whereas those in multiple-eligible-voter households were unaffected by all scripts. Some situational factors may organically facilitate implementation-intentions formation more readily than others; we present data suggesting that this could explain the differential treatment effect that we found. We discuss implications for psychological and political science, and public interventions involving implementation-intentions formation.

 


Collection of Delinquent Fines: An Adaptive Randomized Trial to Assess the Effectiveness of Alternative Text Messages

Haynes LC

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The collection of delinquent fines is a vast and ongoing public administration challenge. In the United Kingdom, unpaid fines amount to more than 500 million pounds. Managing noncompliant accounts and dispatching bailiffs to collect fines in person is costly. This paper reports the results of a large randomized controlled trial, led by the UK Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insights Team, which was designed to test the effectiveness of mobile phone text messaging as an alternative method of inducing people to pay their outstanding fines. An adaptive trial design was used, first to test the effectiveness of text messaging against no treatment and then to test the relative effectiveness of alternative messages. Text messages, which are relatively inexpensive, are found to significantly increase average payment of delinquent fines. We found text messages to be especially effective when they address the recipient by name.

 


Pilot OSHA Citation Process Increases Employer Responsiveness

Chojnacki G

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hrough a nationwide randomized controlled trial, we tested whether employers who were cited for health and safety violations would be more responsive if OSHA changed the way it issues and follows up on citations. Employer responsiveness is a critical component of fulfilling OSHA’s mission; when employers do not respond to citations, the agency cannot verify that workplace hazards have been corrected, and local offices must refer unresolved citations to the national office for enforcement and debt collection, a costly and burdensome process.As part of the new process, OSHA staff: (1) gave employers a new handout as part of the preview of the citation process when they conducted their inspections, (2) used a new cover letter for citations, and (3) provided timely reminders, including a postcard and follow-up phone call, to employers about their response options and the corresponding deadlines. With the new process, OSHA staff also had access to Spanish-language versions of all materials, which had never been provided consistently on a national scale. The new process was based on insights from experienced field staff combined with findings from behavioral research, and aimed to address possible behavioral factors that may prevent employers from responding to citations.About half of the nation’s local OSHA offices began implementing the new citation process in June 2015, while the other half continued their normal process, which involves only sending a comprehensive, written citation package. (The test included 27 states in 8 of OSHA’s 10 regions, and excluded two regions in which nearly all of the states operate their own job safety and health plans.) We then used OSHA records collected at the end of November 2015 to determine whether employers had positively engaged with OSHA in response to a citation.

 


Boosting Survey Response Rates

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Low response rates to government surveys hinder research and limit the robustness of the policy evaluations and recommendation. To compensate for low rates of response, research teams often need to increase sample sizes, making research more costly.

 


Increasing Enrollment in a Senior Discount

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The City of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania offers a discount to low-income senior citizens living in the municipality on their water bills. Senior water and sewer customers can apply to receive 25 percent off their payments for water in an effort to reduce the financial burden on those elderly citizens with lesser means.

 


Boost Flood Preparedness with a Redesigned Letter

ideas42

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Recent severe weather events have increased concerns about growing flood risk and the resiliency of households in the floodplain, prompting efforts to improve preparedness and insurance coverage.