Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Rebecca Dizon-Ross — Incentivizing Behavioral Change: The Role of Time Preferences

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

How should the design of incentives vary with the time preferences of agents? We develop two predictions. First, making the payment function non-separable or "bundled" over time (e.g., by only rewarding effort in a given period if the agent exerts effort in a minimum number of other periods) generates relatively more effort among individuals who are impatient over effort. Second, increasing the frequency of payment increases effort if individuals are impatient over payment. We test the efficacy of bundling and frequency, and their interactions with time preferences, using a randomized evaluation of an incentives program for exercise among diabetics in India. Making the contract time-bundled meaningfully increases effort among the impatient relative to the patient, but increases outcome dispersion. In contrast, increasing payment frequency has limited efficacy on average because there is limited impatience over payments in our sample. On average, incentives increase daily walking by 1,300 steps (roughly 13 minutes of brisk walking) and improve health.

Rebecca Dizon-Ross is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She is a development economist with an interest in human capital. Much of her current work is on the demand-side, aiming to understand the determinants of households’ investments in health and education.

Before joining Booth, Dizon-Ross was a Prize Fellow in Economics, History, and Politics at Harvard University and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University and a B.A. (summa cum laude) from Harvard University. Prior to graduate school, she worked as an analyst at McKinsey & Co.

Development and Governance Seminar