Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Research Portfolio

Project Overview

Many human services programs are designed such that individuals must make a series of decisions and take a number of active steps in order to realize a benefit. From deciding which programs to apply for, to completing forms, attending meetings, showing proof of eligibility, and arranging travel and child care, program designers often assume that individuals make decisions about how to proceed based on careful consideration of their options and what is best for them. But over the past 30 years, innovative behavioral science research has demonstrated that human decision-making is often imperfect and imprecise. People — clients and program administrators alike — procrastinate, get overwhelmed by choices, miss details, are prone to distraction, rely on mental shortcuts, and are influenced by small changes in the environment. As a result, both program operators and participants may not always achieve their intended goals, affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of government programs.

Insights from behavioral economics, which combines findings from psychology and economics, and from the broader field of behavioral science, suggest that a deeper understanding of decision-making and behavior could improve human services program design and outcomes. Principles from behavioral science can both shed light on decision-making and offer new tools to improve outcomes for program participants. Small changes in the environment can facilitate desired behaviors; planning and commitment devices can be used to improve follow-through; and default rules can produce positive outcomes even for people who fail to act.

In 2010, OPRE launched the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, the first major effort to view programs for low-income U.S. families, including work poor families, through a behavioral science lens. In 2015, OPRE launched two new behavioral science projects – BIAS Capstone and BIAS Next Generation – in order to synthesize, disseminate, and build on BIAS’s applied behavioral science work.

Sign up to receive email updates about behavioral science and the projects in the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Research Portfolio.

The points of contact are Kim Clum and Victoria Kabak.

Affiliated Projects:

  • Behavioral Insights for Work Support: Lessons from the BIAS Project

    Published: January 4, 2018

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project conducted randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions with two programs that aim to increase the economic security of recipients’ families through employment. This brief provides an overview of the interventions the BIAS team designed in partnership with these sites, which targeted two primary problems

  • Behavioral Insights for Child Care: Lessons from the BIAS Project

    Published: January 4, 2018

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project conducted randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions at two child care agencies in Indiana and Oklahoma. This brief provides an overview...

  • Behavioral Insights for Child Support: Lessons from the BIAS Project

    Published: November 16, 2017

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project conducted randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions at four child support agencies—in Texas, Washington, and two Ohio counties...

  • Developing SIMPLER Solutions

    Published: October 3, 2017

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project undertook a diagnosis and design process that resulted in tailored interventions specific to each of the project’s sites. While these interventions responded to sites’ unique challenges, they addressed common bottlenecks that various human services settings may share...

  • Nudging Change in Human Services: Final Report of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Project

    Published: May 17, 2017

    This report represents the final synthesis of the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency project. Overall, the project’s findings demonstrated that applying behavioral insights to challenges facing human services programs can improve program efficiency, operations, and outcomes at a relatively low cost.

  • The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) Project - Infographic

    Published: December 22, 2016

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project demonstrated the value of applying insights from behavioral science to improve the efficacy of human services programs. This infographic captures key elements of the project, highlights the behavioral techniques most commonly used in BIAS, and summarizes results across the BIAS experiments...

  • Framing the Message: Using Behavioral Economics to Engage TANF Recipients

    Published: March 10, 2016

    This report presents findings from an intervention designed to increase the number of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients who “reengaged” in Los Angeles County’s welfare-to-work program...

  • Nudges for Child Support: Applying Behavioral Insights to Increase Collections

    Published: February 10, 2016

    This impact report from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project presents findings from four tests of behavioral interventions intended to increase the percentage of parents who made child support payments and the dollar amount of collections per parent in Cuyahoga County, Ohio

  • Engaging Providers and Clients: Using Behavioral Economics to Increase On-Time Child Care Subsidy Renewals

    Published: January 8, 2016

    This report presents findings from a study designed in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) to increase the number of clients who renew their child care subsidy on time.

    The Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) team diagnosed factors that might inhibit on-time renewal and designed three interventions for improvement...

  • The Power of Prompts: Using Behavioral Insights to Encourage People to Participate

    Published: September 16, 2015

    This report presents findings from a study of two behavioral interventions — one that used behavioral messaging postcards and text message reminders to encourage participation in an optional meeting, and one that made the meeting easier to attend.

    The goal of each intervention was to increase participant attendance at an optional informational meeting for Paycheck Plus, an earnings supplement program in which participants had previously enrolled. These meetings gave clients an...

More Reports on this Project