Before the Lunch Line: Effectiveness of Behavioral Economic Interventions for Pre-Commitment onElementary School Children’s Food Choices
33 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2019 Last revised: 3 Jun 2019
Date Written: December 1, 2018
In this study, we intervened in elementary schools on lunch entrée selection using some of the behavioral economic methods shown to be effective in earlier food choice studies. Unlike many earlier behavioral interventions, which were mostly done in controlled environments and smaller café type settings for one-off interactions, we conducted our interventions in a real-world environment in multiple elementary schools in one school district in South Carolina over many school weeks. By increasing salience and prominence of the healthy entrée of the day through visual and verbal tools, we nudged students towards healthier options in treatment schools. We estimated the treatment effects using a difference-in-differences setup, comparing changes in consumption of nudged entrées during the treatment period relative to their consumption before the treatment period in treatment and comparison schools. Our estimates show that the nudges are effective when present. They increase consumption of the healthy option by ten to twenty percent on the day the entrée is treated. However, effects dissipate when the nudge is removed. There is also evidence for reduced effectiveness of nudges in repeat instances.
Keywords: Nudge, Behavioral Economics, Healthy Eating, School Lunch, Salience, Prominence, Difference-in-Differences
JEL Classification: C93, D91, I12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation