Before the Lunch Line: Effectiveness of Behavioral Economic Interventions for Pre-Commitment onElementary School Children’s Food Choices

38 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2019 Last revised: 17 Jun 2020

See all articles by Orgul D. Ozturk

Orgul D. Ozturk

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics

Edward Frongillo

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health

Christine Blake

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health

Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health

Date Written: December 1, 2018

Abstract

In this study, we intervened in elementary schools on lunch entrée selection using some of the behavioral economic methods shown to be effective in earlier food choice studies. Unlike many earlier behavioral interventions, which were mostly done in controlled environments and smaller café type settings for one-off interactions, we conducted our interventions in a real-world environment in twelve elementary schools in one school district in South Carolina over nine school weeks. By increasing salience and prominence of the healthy entrée of the day through visual and verbal tools, we nudged students towards selecting healthier options in treatment schools. We estimated the treatment effects using a difference-in-differences setup, comparing changes in the share of students selecting nudged entrées during the treatment period relative to the shares before the treatment period in treatment and comparison schools. Our estimates show that the nudges are effective when present. They increase selection of the healthy option by thirteen to thirty-five percent on the days the entrée is treated. Effects disappear when the nudge is removed, however, and there is evidence for reduced effectiveness of nudges in repeat instances. There is no evidence of habit formation.

Keywords: Nudge, Behavioral Economics, Healthy Eating, School Lunch, Salience, Prominence, Difference-in-Differences

JEL Classification: C93, D91, I12

Suggested Citation

Ozturk, Orgul D. and Frongillo, Edward and Blake, Christine and Turner-McGrievy, Gabrielle, Before the Lunch Line: Effectiveness of Behavioral Economic Interventions for Pre-Commitment onElementary School Children’s Food Choices (December 1, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3320549 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3320549

Orgul D. Ozturk (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Moore School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

The Francis M. Hipp Building
1705 College Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Edward Frongillo

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health ( email )

Dept. of Health Promotion, Education & Behavior
SC
United States

Christine Blake

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health ( email )

Dept. of Health Promotion, Education & Behavior
SC
United States

Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy

University of South Carolina - Arnold School of Public Health ( email )

Dept. of Health Promotion, Education & Behavior
SC
United States

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