Anzelone directs MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science, where she leads studies that apply behavioral insights and human-centered design to improve outcomes that reduce poverty. She has studied the application of behavioral science in higher education, workforce development, childcare, child support, and TANF. She specializes in designs that center participant experiences. She is currently the director of the OnPath and cross-functional teams for transformation projects. She holds an MA in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University and BS in psychology with a minor in communications and media studies from Fordham University.
Using College Staff Members’ Perspectives to Improve the Student ExperienceFebruary, 2023
Complex administrative processes in community colleges can delay graduation. The OnPath project aims to help students navigate those processes more effectively and persist in college. This brief examines OnPath’s use of research evidence and staff members’ perspectives and hands-on knowledge to build and improve college systems that benefit all students.Report
Final Lessons from the EASE ProjectOctober, 2020
This report presents findings from Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment, which used behavioral insights in two informational campaigns, with and without tuition assistance, to encourage community college students to take summer classes. Both interventions increased enrollment and had a modest impact on credits earned and positive return on investment for colleges.Issue FocusMay, 2020
Students navigating the COVID-19 pandemic are facing new practical and financial concerns about continuing their studies. Colleges can encourage continued enrollment and boost student success by sending well-designed messages that address those concerns, simplify information, and offer support. This Issue Focus highlights proven strategies for communicating effectively.Issue FocusMay, 2020
Expanded eligibility guidelines and flexible funding options can support wider access to child care during the COVID-19 emergency, but only if parents and child care workers know how to navigate them. Agencies can use behavioral science research insights to make communications clear and concise and simplify the application process.Brief
Using Behavioral Science to Encourage Postsecondary Summer EnrollmentJuly, 2018
Community college students who enroll in summer courses are more likely to graduate, but most do not attend during the summer. The Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project uses insights from behavioral science to encourage more students to enroll in summer. This brief presents EASE’s Phase I findings.Report
A Case StudyJune, 2018
Drawing from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, this case study is designed as a teaching guide for students and practitioners. Using the example of an effort to increase participation in a tax-credit program, exercises help readers apply behavioral science principles to a real-life problem.ReportMarch, 2018
This compendium of written materials comes from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project. The collection illustrates how specific concepts from behavioral science were used in different settings and formats by practitioners and program designers in child care, child support, and work-support programs.Brief
Behavioral Strategies to Increase Engagement in Child SupportFebruary, 2018
An essential step in the child support process is delivering legal documents to the person named as a parent. This intervention in Georgia applied insights from behavioral science to get more parents to come in and accept documents voluntarily instead of using a sheriff or process server to deliver them.Report
Final Report of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) ProjectMay, 2017
The BIAS project tested behavioral interventions in child support, child care, and work support programs with nearly 100,000 low-income clients in eight human services agencies. Each site saw at least one significant, low-cost impact. The findings suggest that small environmental changes can enhance client-agency interactions and expanded behavioral strategies might help strengthen programs and policies.Report
Using Behavioral Science to Improve Indiana’s Child Care Subsidy ProgramSeptember, 2016
Three behavioral interventions targeting low-income parents receiving child care subsidies were tested in Indiana. One combining mailed materials and a phone call increased the percentage of parents who chose a highly rated child care provider, and two others increased the percentage of parents who attended their first scheduled subsidy redetermination appointment.Report
Using Behavioral Insights to Encourage People to ParticipateAugust, 2015
Several low-cost behavioral messaging interventions boosted participant attendance at an optional informational meeting for Paycheck Plus, an earnings supplement program in New York City. This test is part of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, sponsored by the federal Administration for Children and Families.Report
Using Behavioral Economics to Help Incarcerated Parents Apply for Child Support Order ModificationsSeptember, 2014
A low-cost behavioral intervention increased by 11 percentage points the proportion of incarcerated noncustodial parents in Texas who applied for modifications to reduce the amount of their child support orders. This test is part of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, sponsored by the federal Administration for Children and Families.Report
A Technical Supplement to “Behavioral Economics and Social Policy”April, 2014
This technical supplement to an introductory report for the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project presents a description of behavioral interventions that have been commonly researched in studies.Report
Designing Innovative Solutions for Programs Supported by the Administration for Children and FamiliesApril, 2014
This report describes three sites in the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project, which applies tools from behavioral economics to improve the well-being of low-income individuals and families — the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
ProjectsErika Lundquist, Brit Henderson, Richard Hendra, Caitlin Anzelone, Sophia Sutcliffe, Shawna Anderson
Washington state is consistently ranked among the bottom states in Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA ) completion. In 2017, Washington left more than $50 million in federal student financial aid on the table. In 2019, the Washington Student Achievement Council ( WSAC ) designed an interactive chatbot called OtterBot to help more students to take...Tiffany Morton, Rebecca Schwartz, Camielle Headlam, Julia Schmidt, Caitlin Anzelone
MDRC ’s On the Path to a Degree project (OnPath) seeks to improve student persistence and success at community colleges through evidence-based messaging strategies. Through OnPath, MDRC will collaborate with five community colleges in New Jersey and five two-year Historically Black Colleges and Universities to design and develop student outreach campaigns that...Caitlin Anzelone, Barbara Condliffe, Rebecca Schwartz, Margaret Hennessy, Xavier Alemañy, Sophia Sutcliffe
The Center for Applied Behavioral Science ( CABS ) at MDRC is excited to launch the Applied Behavioral Coalition ( ABC ) project, which partners with nonprofit organizations that serve vulnerable and at-risk populations in the United States. ABC ’s goal is to build each organization’s foundation in behavioral science and human-centered design principles. Leaders, staff...Megan Millenky, Dan Bloom, Susan Scrivener, Charles Michalopoulos, Dina A. R. Israel, Johanna Walter, Lauren Cates, Sally Dai, Caroline Mage, Emily Marano, Viktoriya Syrov, Douglas Phillips, Kyla Wasserman, Lily Freedman, Osvaldo Avila, Emily Brennan, Jillian Verrillo, Gilda Azurdia, Frieda Molina, Shelley Rappaport, Clinton Key, Nandita Verma, Cynthia Miller, Jared Smith, Shawna Anderson, Kelsey Schaberg, Caitlin Anzelone, James A. Riccio, Keri West, Caroline Schultz, Ethan Feldman
Many Americans struggle in the labor market even when overall economic conditions are good. Unemployment is persistently high for some demographic groups and in certain geographic areas, and a large proportion of working-age adults — about two in five in 2019 — tend to be out of the labor force. Factors such as systemic racism embedded in the economy and...
MDRC ’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science ( CABS ) and Postsecondary Education policy area launched The Finish Line: Graduation by Design to improve college completion rates using behavioral insights. Graduating from college is a challenge, particularly for low‐income and nontraditional students, who often face personal, institutional, and structural barriers to...Alexander Mayer, David Navarro, Caitlin Anzelone, Evan Weissman, Dan Cullinan, Elena Serna-Wallender, Stanley Dai, Sumner Perera
The college enrollment process is complex and includes many steps. Recent research has shown that short, action-oriented text messages can help people focus on critical tasks at the right times. Building on this promising research, the Text Ed project will develop and test a strategic text messaging intervention at Educational Opportunity Centers ( EOC s). One of eight...Caitlin Anzelone, Michael J. Weiss, Melissa Boynton, Xavier Alemañy, Colin Hill, Camielle Headlam, Dorota Biedzio Rizik
The Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment ( EASE ) Project is a new initiative to improve community college persistence and completion in Ohio. The project will apply insights from behavioral science to design targeted messaging and financial incentives that encourage students to enroll in courses during the summer term.
In the U.S., higher education...
Nudges to Increase Customer Engagement ( NICE ) in Child Support Programs was an effort to use insights from behavioral science to increase noncustodial parents’ engagement in an administrative process for establishing their child support orders and to improve ongoing communication between the child support program and its clients. The New York City Human Resources...Dan Bloom, Jared Smith, Barbara S. Goldman, Caitlin Anzelone, Caroline Mage, Yana Kusayeva
Behavioral science sheds light on human decision-making and behavior to better understand why people make the choices that they do. Designers of social services often expect that clients will understand their many choices and obligations, respond appropriately to notices, recognize the benefits of supportive services, and diligently follow through. When these...Caitlin Anzelone, Clinton Key, Mary Bambino, Barbara Condliffe, Rebecca Schwartz, Jared Smith, Margaret Hennessy, Xavier Alemañy
Policymakers and administrators are increasingly using evidence about human behavior to improve the design of social services. People — who often rely on intuition instead of reason, make inconsistent choices over time, and can be overloaded by information — are the clients who receive services, the staff who provide them, and the policymakers who create them....
Many social programs are designed in such a way that individuals must make active decisions and go through a series of steps in order to benefit from them. They must decide which programs to apply to or participate in, complete forms, attend meetings, show proof of eligibility, and arrange travel and child care. Program designers often assume that individuals will...