Behavioral Food Subsidies
58 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2019 Last revised: 13 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 11, 2019
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: Suggested Citation