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Choice

A celebration of Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize and a new field – Behavioral Development Economics

Karla Hoff's picture

Could a parent’s decision to vaccinate a child depend on a free bag of lentils?  The premise seems implausible:immunization can be a matter of life and death, and a bag of lentils is worth only a dollar.  Yet a randomized controlled trial in India showed that a gift to parents of a 1 kg bag of lentils and a set of plates can dramatically raise the percentage of children protected against major disease (Banerjee et al. 2010).  Providing a quality immunization camp alone increased the percentage of fully immunized children from 6% to 18%.  The addition of the lentil and plate ‘incentives’ raised the figure to a whopping 39%.  How can we explain the outsize effect of a gift of everyday household items?