Can Social Comparisons and Moral Appeals Increase Public Transport Ridership and Decrease Car Use?

53 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2023 Last revised: 26 Sep 2023

See all articles by Johannes Gessner

Johannes Gessner

University of Mannheim - Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences

Wolfgang Habla

DHBW Villingen-Schwenningen

Ulrich J. Wagner

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics

Date Written: 2023

Abstract

In a field experiment with 341 participants, we study whether social comparisons, either in isolation or in combination with a climate-related moral appeal, can change the use of public and car-related transportation. We do so in the context of a mobility budget offered to employees of a large German company as an alternative to a company car. The budget can be used to pay for both leisure and commuting trips, and for various modes of transport. Behavioral interventions in this setting are of particular interest, since companies are constrained to significantly alter financial benefits to employees yet strive to lower carbon emissions via a shift to low-emission transport modes. We find strong evidence for a reduction in car-related mobility in response to the combined treatment, driven by reduced expenditures for taxi and UBER rides. This is accompanied by substitution towards micromobility, but not towards public transport. Furthermore, we do not find any effects of the social comparison alone. Our results demonstrate that norm-based nudges are able to change transportation behavior, at least temporarily.

Keywords: mobility behavior, randomized experiment, nudging, descriptive norm, injunctive norm, social norms, moral appeal, habit formation

JEL Classification: C93, D04, D91, L91

Suggested Citation

Gessner, Johannes and Habla, Wolfgang and Wagner, Ulrich J., Can Social Comparisons and Moral Appeals Increase Public Transport Ridership and Decrease Car Use? ( 2023). ZEW - Centre for European Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 23-003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4350517 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4350517

Johannes Gessner (Contact Author)

University of Mannheim - Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences

Wolfgang Habla

DHBW Villingen-Schwenningen ( email )

Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 30
Villingen-Schwenningen, 78054
Germany

Ulrich J. Wagner

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim
Germany

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