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Can Reminders and Incentives Improve Implementation Within Government? Evidence from a Field Experiment

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Existing research demonstrates how governments can use insights from behavioral science to design policy and alter residents’ behavior. This article proposes that the effect of behavioral interventions may be different in hierarchical organizations where the decision to change behavior and the execu-tion of that decision are split between different individuals. We examine the effect of two small-scale interventions—personal reminders and financial incentives—in a large-scale field experiment with public schools in Denmark. The Ministry of Education invited a representative sample of public schools to adopt a program that provides information on students’ socio-emotional competencies. Results show that small financial incentives increased managers’ adoption of the program by 7 percentage points. Frontline workers’ subsequent data generation and performance information acquisition were also increased in the incentive treatment groups, even though the latter was not incentivized. Re-minders paired with incentives had an impact on the managers’ adoption, but the reminder effect disappeared during the implementation phase. These findings demonstrates both the potentials and limitations of applying behavioral research on individual residents to hierarchical organizations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Pages (from-to)234-249
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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