Using Non-Pecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: Evidence from a Large Scale Field Experiment
Policymakers are increasingly using norm-based messages to influence individual decision-making. We partner with a metropolitan water utility to implement a natural field experiment examining the effect of such messages on residential water demand. The data, drawn from more than 100,000 households, indicate that social comparison messages had a greater influence on behavior than simple pro-social messages or technical information alone. Moreover, our data suggest social comparison messages are most effective among households identified as the least price sensitive: high-users. Yet the effectiveness of such messages wanes over time. Our results thus highlight important complementarities between pecuniary and non-pecuniary strategies.
The authors thank Kathy Nguyen for her support in conducting this experiment and for her assistance in creating the treatment messages and ensuring the experimental design was policy relevant. The authors also thank Herb Richardson for transferring the outcome data, Merlin Hanauer and Juan Jose Miranda for work to compile the data. John List, Subrendu Pattanayak, Laura Taylor, and participants at the 2009 AEA-ASSA meetings and seminars at the Georgia Water Wise Council, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, University of California-Davis, North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech, and Yale University provided useful comments that markedly improved the study The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Paul J. Ferraro & Michael K. Price, 2013. "Using Nonpecuniary Strategies to Influence Behavior: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 64-73, March. citation courtesy of