More examples of nudges in the public sector

Here’s an interesting story about the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team. With some useful examples that might make for interesting classroom cases/exercises:

As an example, Moore pointed to a program in Lexington, Ky., where there were 7,000 overdue water bills that totaled about $4 million. A nudge in this situation meant sending a mailer alerting people to their delinquency. Some of them included handwritten notes addressing recipients by name. In less than a month, the campaign resulted in the reconciliation of $139,000 in unpaid bills.

Santiago Garces, chief innovation officer of South Bend, Ind., described BIT’s work in his city as “wizardry.” Using mapping, South Bend found that homeowners in low income areas were less likely to take advantage of mortgage-related tax exemptions they were entitled to. This is, in many ways, what behavioral influence looks like at its best: A hard data study upends a presumption (in this case, that lower income families would be most likely to pursue tax breaks) and city government subsequently works to nudge a behavioral change for the good of its residents.

Nudges aren’t limited to exerting public influence. Andres Lazo, director of citizen-centered design for Gainesville, Fla., said he was working to use the idea internally, a strategy Moore had seen deployed elsewhere to encourage employees to share efficiency ideas by offering incentives like recognition and prizes.

Data for dissertations November 6, 2017

36615 Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Surveys [LAMAS] 6, 1973

36644 Afrobarometer Round 6: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in
Algeria, 2015

36721 Afrobarometer Round 6: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in
Nigeria, 2014-2015

36763 Afrobarometer Round 6: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in
Liberia, 2015

36814 Newly Licensed Registered Nurse Survey, 2011

36838 Afrobarometer Round 6: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in
Sudan, 2015

36902 The National Survey of Fertility Barriers, 2010 [United States]

36950 Chicago Health Aging and Social Relations Study: Attrition

Incentives aren’t always clear

For seven months, just over a thousand Washington, D.C., police officers were randomly assigned cameras — and another thousand were not. Researchers tracked use-of-force incidents, civilian complaints, charging decisions and other outcomes to see if the cameras changed behavior. But on every metric, the effects were too small to be statistically significant. Officers with cameras used force and faced civilian complaints at about the same rates as officers without cameras.

From the NYT.

Data for dissertations November 2, 2017

36673 Eurobarometer 85.1 OVR: European Youth, April 2016

36798 Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (12th-Grade Survey), 2016

36799 Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (8th-and 10th-Grade Surveys), 2016

36813 Newly Licensed Registered Nurse Survey, 2009

36873 National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP): Wave 3

A world without pensions and the future of the civil service

There’s been lots of press recently on the long term stability of public pensions and what must be done to fix the system. I won’t recount the debate but the upshot is that many pensions are systematically underfunded and the numbers get worse when pensions change their expectations about future market returns. Much of this has to do with actuaries’ admonitions that we should expect many people to live into their centenarian years. 

People who know more about this might dispute the degree of underfunding but nobody really knows anything about expected future market returns. It’s probably safe to say, given current CAPE 10 valuations, that the next decade won’t be pretty.

People who know more than I do about the market suggest there are two basic strategies.  One is to minimize expenses by investing in low-cost index funds; the other is esoteric investments chasing outside returns, such as in MLPs or New Zealand avocado farms or whatever. Of course, such strategies have different implications for volatility. 

Here’s the thing: we know that the pension storm is real and that things could get bad fast. Moreover, even if this is all just a political dynamic fueled by unnecessary fears, it doesn’t matter if the consequences are massive changes to the traditional public pension systems. 

What happens to the traditional civil service when this happens? Will people continue to become public school teachers? Will people demand higher base wages? Will the best and brightest seek jobs in the private sector instead?

Maybe we’ve seen all this before, but I doubt it. And I don’t hear much conversation that starts with the proposition that traditional public pensions won’t exist for much longer. It isn’t a matter of if, but when. 

Data for dissertations October 17, 2017

36371 The Attack on America and Civil Liberties Trade-Offs: A Three-Wave National Panel Survey, 2001-2004

36622 Johns Hopkins University Prevention Research Center – Risks for Transitions in Drug Use Among Urban Adults, Baltimore City, 2008-2011

36652 Afrobarometer Round 6: The Quality of Democracy and Governance in Burkina Faso, 2015

36662 Eurobarometer 82.2: Quality of Transport, Cyber Security, Value Added Tax, and Public Health, October 2014

36666 Eurobarometer 83.2: Perception of Security, Civil Protection, and Humanitarian Aid, March 2015