Behavioral Economics and Social Policy: Designing Innovative Solutions for Programs Supported by the Administration for Children and Families

Publication Date: April 29, 2014


Insights from behavioral economics, which combines findings from psychology and economics, suggest that a deeper understanding of decision-making and behavior could improve human services program design and outcomes. Research has shown that small changes in the environment can facilitate behaviors and decisions that are in people’s best interest. However, there has been relatively little exploration of the potential application of this science to complex, large-scale human services programs.

This report, from the early stages of OPRE’s Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, provides an overview of behavioral economics, presents an approach to applying behavioral economics to social programs, shares insights from three case studies in the BIAS project, and concludes with some early lessons that have emerged from the work and next steps for the BIAS project. Additionally, a separate technical supplement to the report provides a description of 12 commonly applied behavioral interventions identified through a review of the literature.

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