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

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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 best interests. 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 even minor changes in the environment. As a result, both program operators and participants may not always achieve their intended goals, hindering 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 working poor families, through a behavioral science lens. In 2015, OPRE launched two additional behavioral science projects — BIAS Capstone (concluded in 2018) and BIAS Next Generation (ongoing) — in order to synthesize, disseminate, and build on BIAS’s applied behavioral science work. In 2017, OPRE launched the Behavioral Interventions Scholars grant program, which supports dissertation research by advanced graduate students who are applying a behavioral science lens to research questions with relevance to social services programs and policies and other issues facing low-income and vulnerable families in the United States.

Point(s) of contact:  Kim Clum  and Victoria Kabak.

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Related Resources

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project...

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project.

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project:

  • Behavioral Science for Human Services Webinar
  • Thinking Bigger - How Do We Go Beyond Individual Nudges?
  • News & Upcoming Events

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project...

Updates on behavioral economics and the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project...

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...

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

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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

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...

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...