Dilip Soman looks at the pros and cons of using heuristics in general and the “SIMPLER” framework in particular ― developed specifically by the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project ― to guide practitioners in their efforts to improve human services programs.
When Behavioral Interventions Aren’t Enough
Philip Oreopoulos’s commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project addresses the limitations of written communication and describes the value of personal interactions for building trusting relationships between service providers and clients, which in turn encourage active program participation.
Researchers developing behavioral interventions begin by defining a problem, identifying “bottlenecks” that might hamper desired outcomes, and designing and testing possible solutions. In this Expert Commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Crystal Hall suggests three ideas for expanding the use of this process.
Lawrence Katz explores questions raised by findings from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project: the potential effect of behavioral nudges on long-term outcomes, determining who responds to behavioral nudges but would not otherwise participate in a program, and moving to higher-intensity efforts when low-cost interventions are not enough.
In this commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Sheldon Danziger talks about the value of incorporating insights from behavioral science into new system-level interventions when developing policies to help low-income populations.
Final Report of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Project
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.
As the first major effort to use a behavioral economics lens to examine human services programs that serve poor and vulnerable families in the United States, the BIAS project demonstrated the value of applying behavioral insights to improve the efficacy of human services programs.
Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Incarcerated Parents’ Requests for Child Support Modifications
A behavioral intervention provided incarcerated noncustodial parents in Washington with materials about their eligibility for a child support order modification and how to request one. It increased the number of parents requesting a modification by 32 percentage points and the number of parents receiving a modification by 16 percentage points.
Using Behavioral Science to Improve Indiana’s Child Care Subsidy Program
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.