Do The Effects of Social Nudges Persist? Theory and Evidence from 38 Natural Field Experiments
This study examines the mechanisms underlying long-run reductions in energy consumption caused by a widely studied social nudge. Our investigation considers two channels: physical capital in the home and habit formation in the household. Using data from 38 natural field experiments, we isolate the role of physical capital by comparing treatment and control homes after the original household moves, which ends treatment. We find 35 to 55 percent of the reductions persist once treatment ends and show this is consonant with the physical capital channel. Methodologically, our findings have important implications for the design and assessment of behavioral interventions.
We thank Arhan Gunel and Nancy Hersch for sharing the data. Hunt Allcott, Michael Greenstone, Jim Kapsis, Marc Laitin, David Novgorodsky, Steve Puller, and David Rapson offered helpful comments. We would also like to thank participants of the American Economic Association annual conference, the Muenster Energy Conference, the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists annual conference, Camp Resources XXII, the University of Chicago, and Georgia State University. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.