NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Applying Behavioral Economics to Public Policy in Canada

Robert French, Philip Oreopoulos

NBER Working Paper No. 22671
Issued in September 2016, Revised in February 2017
NBER Program(s):CH, LS, PE

Behavioral economics incorporates ideas from Psychology, Sociology, and Neuroscience to better predict how individuals make long-term decisions. Often the ideas adopted include present or inattention bias, both potentially leading to sub-optimal outcomes. But these models also point to opportunities for effective, low-cost government policies that can have meaningful positive effects on people’s long-term well-being. The last decade has been marked by a growing interest from governments the world over in using behavioral economics to inform policy decisions. This is true of Canada as well. In this paper we discuss the increasingly important role behavioral economics plays in Canadian public policy. We first contextualize government policies that have incorporated insights from behavioral economics by outlining a collection of models of intertemporal choice. We then present examples of public policy initiatives that are based upon findings in the field, placing particular emphasis on Canadian initiatives. We also document future opportunities, challenges, and limitations.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22671

Published: Robert French & Philip Oreopoulos, 2017. "Applying behavioural economics to public policy in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(3), pages 599-635, August. citation courtesy of

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