Skip to main content
    • PI: Dr. John List
    • Co-PI: Dr. Anya Samek
  • University of Chicago
  • Project Title:
    Using Behavioral Economics to Improve Child Food Choice: The Impact of Informational Signals
  • Key Findings
    We designed a field experiment to investigate the impact of nonmonetary incentives on children’s milk choices—chocolate milk or white milk—in the school lunchroom. We decided to use milk choice as our outcome variable of interest not because it is the most nutritionally important decision that children make (we make no claim to be nutritionists), but because by virtue of sugar content, white milk is superior to chocolate milk, and children have a clear preference for chocolate over white, so there is room to ‘‘nudge’’ behavior through our interventions. In our experiment, we randomize children to either a baseline condition or an incentive condition where they can receive a glow-in-the-dark bracelet (valued at about US$0.20) for selecting the healthier option. We carried out the field experiment over a series of nine days (two weeks) with over 1,500 students in grades K to 8 across seven different elementary schools in the Chicago Heights (IL), school district. We recorded the selection of milk as children went through the lunch line. We find that at baseline, only 16 percent of children select the healthier white milk relative to 84 percent choosing chocolate milk. We find a significant effect of incentives, which increase white milk selection 2.5 times to 40 percent. After interventions are taken away, 25 percent of those previously treated continue to select white milk, providing suggestive evidence of the longer-term benefits of incentives, and no evidence of any negative effects.
  • Publications
  • Working Paper