NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Structure of Health Incentives: Evidence from a Field Experiment

Mariana Carrera, Heather Royer, Mark F. Stehr, Justin R. Sydnor

NBER Working Paper No. 23188
Issued in February 2017
NBER Program(s):   HC   HE   LS

The use of incentives to encourage healthy behaviors is increasingly widespread, but we have little evidence about how best to structure these programs. We explore how different incentive designs affect behavior on the extensive and intensive margins through an experiment offering incentives to employees of a Fortune 500 company to use their workplace gym. Overall the likelihood of joining the gym was not strongly affected by the incentive design. Notably, front-loading incentives to encourage initial participation was not more effective than an incentive kept constant over time. For those who were already at least occasional users of the gym, however, we find more evidence that the design of incentives matters. For this group, front-loading incentives appears to be detrimental relative to a constant incentive, but a novel design that spreads out the incentive budget by turning incentives on and off over a longer period of time is effective.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23188

 
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