Behavioral Food Subsidies

58 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2019 Last revised: 13 Sep 2019

See all articles by Andy Brownback

Andy Brownback

University of Arkansas

Alex Imas

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Michael Kuhn

University of Oregon - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 11, 2019

Abstract

We conduct a pre-registered field experiment with low-income grocery shoppers to study how behavioral interventions can be leveraged to improve the effectiveness of subsidies for healthy food purchases. Our unique design enables us to elicit choices between subsidies and deliver subsidies both before and at the point of purchase. We examine the effects of two non-restrictive changes to the choice environment: giving shoppers agency over the subsidy they receive and introducing a waiting period before the shopping trip to prompt deliberation about the food purchase decision. Combined, our interventions substantially increase the effectiveness of subsidies, increasing healthy purchases by 61% relative to a restricted healthy food subsidy and 199% relative to an un-subsidized control group. These low-cost, scalable, and effective interventions have significant implications for behaviorally-motivated policy aiming to mitigate nutritional inequality.

Keywords: agency, deliberation, nutrition, choice architecture, waiting periods, field experiment

JEL Classification: D9, D12, C93

Suggested Citation

Brownback, Andy and Imas, Alex and Kuhn, Michael, Behavioral Food Subsidies (September 11, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3422272 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3422272

Andy Brownback (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas ( email )

Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Alex Imas

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Michael Kuhn

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

Eugene, OR 97403
United States

HOME PAGE: http://pages.uoregon.edu/mkuhn

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