Habit Formation in Children: Evidence from Incentives for Healthy Eating
24 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2014
Date Written: September 16, 2014
We present findings from a field experiment conducted at 40 elementary schools involving 8,000 children and 400,000 child-day observations, which tested whether providing short-run incentives can create habit formation in children. Over a three or five week period, students received an incentive for eating a serving of fruits or vegetables during lunch. Relative to an average baseline rate of 39%, providing small incentives doubled the fraction of children eating at least one serving of fruits or vegetables. Two months after the end of the intervention, the consumption rate at schools remained 21% above baseline for the three-week treatment and 44% above baseline for the five week treatment, a significant difference. These findings indicate that short-run incentives can produce changes in behavior that persist after incentives are removed and support the natural intuition that longer interventions produce more persistent habits.
JEL Classification: J13, I18, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation