A Note on the Level of Customer Support by State Governments: A Mystery-Shopping Approach

12 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2021

See all articles by Oeindrila Dube

Oeindrila Dube

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Sendhil Mullainathan

University of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 26, 2021

Abstract

Many government services are provided at the state level such as unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and SNAP. Given the lack of competition, a natural worry is that customer support provided by states for these services is less than adequate. While there are many different measures of how a state can support beneficiaries, we focus on just one in this short and applied report: the ability to get a live representative on the phone to help with an application question. To do this, we take a “mystery shopping” approach and make 2,000 phone calls to state government offices. We find substantial heterogeneity in the availability of live phone representatives across states and types of service (UI, Medicaid, etc.). For example, live representatives in New Jersey and Georgia were reached less than 20% of the time while representatives in New Hampshire and Wisconsin were reached more than 80% of the time. We hope that this report provides a simple example for how academics, investigative reporters, and watch groups can help states be more accountable for their customer support systems.

JEL Classification: H0,I38

Suggested Citation

Dube, Oeindrila and Pope, Devin G. and Mullainathan, Sendhil, A Note on the Level of Customer Support by State Governments: A Mystery-Shopping Approach (July 26, 2021). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-89, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3894702 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3894702

Oeindrila Dube

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 E 60th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Devin G. Pope (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Sendhil Mullainathan

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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