Behavioral economics

Governments embrace behavioral economics 5/20/17

Article: "When nudge comes to shove   

 

The Behavioral Insights Team was created by the British government under the advisement of economist Richard Thaler in 2010. (Thaler, along with Cass Sunstein wrote Nudge in 2008). Its mission was to use psychology and behavioral economics to modify government policy and “nudge” people towards better outcomes. For example, organ donation might become opt-out instead of opt-in (the default becomes the desired behavior). Such a small tweak can greatly increase opt-in rates. In the case of the BIT, if they failed to return in savings ten times their operating budget, they would be disbanded. Instead, they returned savings equivalent to twenty times their annual budget.

> Other examples: connecting the FAFSA website for student loans to the IRS website allows FAFSA applications to be pre-filled. This has increased successful applications by 25%.

> Asking voters to write down when they plan to vote increases voter turnout - not just in the upcoming election, but in all subsequent elections.

> “Nudging” can be weaponized. North Carolina enacted a suite of laws (voter ID, reduced polling times, no voting outside of your precinct etc.) all designed to make voting more difficult for low-income voters. It depressed turnout. Fortunately, these laws were found to be unconstitutional in 2016.