The Power of a Bad Example – A Field Experiment In Household Garbage Disposal
CentER Discussion Paper No. 2013-037
34 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2012 Last revised: 15 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 10, 2013
Field-experimental studies have shown that people litter more in more littered environments. Inspired by these findings, many cities around the world have adopted policies to quickly remove litter. While such policies may avoid that people follow the bad example of litterers, they may also invite free-riding on public cleaning services. We are the first to show that both forces are at play. We conduct a natural field experiment where, in a randomly assigned part of a residential area, the frequency of cleaning was drastically reduced during a threemonth period. We find evidence that some people start to clean up after themselves when public cleaning services are diminished. However, the tendency to litter more dominates. We also find evidence for persistency in these responses after the treatment has ended.
Keywords: littering, public services, free-riding, field experiment
JEL Classification: C93, H40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation