Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) Code(s)
Recent literature suggests the power of interventions to change habits. In a dense slum in Nairobi, we adopt best practices from the habit literature to encourage toilet use instead of alternatives that damage community health. Offering subsidies increased toilet usage, effects continue for one month after discounts end, but erode thereafter. Treatments designed to induce habit formation (marketing, time-limited discounts encouraging repetition, discounts for longer periods, targeting `habitual types’) generated no greater persistence. We see some persistent behavior change due to learning about the new toilet option. It appears difficult to induce pro-social behavior without private benefits through habit change.
Caro-Burnett, Johann; Chevalier, Judith A.; and Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq, "Is Habit a Powerful Policy Instrument to Induce Prosocial Behavioral Change?" (2021). Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers. 2600.