Journal of Behavioral Public Administration https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa <p><em>Journal of Behavioral Public Administration (JBPA)</em> is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary open access journal that focuses on behavioral and experimental research in public administration, broadly defined.&nbsp; JBPA encourages submissions of both basic scholarly and applied work conducted by academics or practitioners.</p> Center for Experimental and Behavioral Public Administration en-US Journal of Behavioral Public Administration 2576-6465 <p>Manuscripts accepted for publicaction in JBPA are licensed under a <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License</a> (CC-BY 4.0).&nbsp; It allows all uses of published manuscripts but requires attribution.</p> <p>The CC-BY license applies also to data, code and experimental material, except when it conflicts with a prior copyright.&nbsp; Common courtesy requires informing authors of new uses of their data, as well as acknowledging the source.</p> Designing to minimize the administrative burden of trash disposal: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial in New York City public housing https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/202 <p>The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing manager in North America. One widespread concern for residents and staff is the improper disposal of household trash and litter on NYCHA grounds. Here we present the co-produced service of trash disposal through the lens of administrative burden; official policy is unclear for residents and options are confusing or inconvenient, resulting in significant learning, compliance, and psychological costs. To reduce this burden, we redesigned the trash disposal infrastructure – new large containers placed at convenient locations – and introduced a package of indoor and outdoor posters communicating the new policy. 53 NYCHA developments, randomly assigned to treatment or control groups, were broken into 79 smaller observation sites. Weekly counts of visible trash bags and litter were collected pre-intervention and post-intervention, over a period of 21 weeks. The average number of household trash bags decreased by 25% (p&lt;.05) in treatment sites after the intervention, and the average amount of litter decreased by 16% (p&lt;.05). Providing easier access to disposal infrastructure, complemented by community-oriented and instructional communications, significantly reduced visible trash on NYCHA grounds, demonstrating that new structures and resources can effectively reduce burdens and change behavior.</p> Sara V. Flanagan Nuha Saho Deepti Nagulapally Matthew Darling Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-05-07 2021-05-07 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.202 Leveraging insights from behavioral science and administrative burden in free college program design: A typology https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/197 <p>Amid concerns over college affordability, many communities and states have enacted free college programs, and the Biden administration has brought momentum to federal free college discussions. Today, hundreds of college promise programs exist in communities across the country, including at least 20 state-sponsored free college programs. While free college policies have the potential to increase enrollment by reducing college costs, substantial variation in program design likely shapes how effective these programs are at expanding college access and reducing racial and economic disparities. This paper leverages insights from administrative burden and behavioral science to develop a typology of statewide free college programs, offering a framework for examining how policy design reduces (or increases) the burden individuals are likely to incur in receiving free college benefits. To do so, we collected data on design features of free college programs (e.g., eligibility criteria, application procedures, maintenance requirements) and created indices capturing the extent to which each program imposes administrative burden and, conversely, offers behavioral supports to help students navigate the aid process. Our findings offer insight for policymakers as they design free college programs and provide context for researchers examining the effectiveness and equity outcomes of statewide free college programs.</p> Kelly Rosinger Katharine Meyer Jialing Wang Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-05-10 2021-05-10 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.197 Nudge in the time of coronavirus: Compliance to behavioural messages during crisis https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/238 <p>Successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic require those without COVID-19 and asymptomatic individuals to comply with a range of government guidelines. As nudges have been widely found to be effective at increasing compliance to prosocial behaviours in many contexts, how good are they for the COVID policy toolkit? In particular, is more of a reflective response–nudge plus— needed as well as classic nudges? In an online experiment with 1,500 people, we show that social norms and portrayal of the victim do not work on their own, but when the victim is combined with the more reflective task of carrying out a writing task to a relative there are impacts on intentions to comply with the guidelines. After two weeks, however, these intentions do not persist. There is much work to do when designing nudges in the context of COVID-19 and other public health pandemics to ensure persistence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Susanne Hume Peter John Michael Sanders Emma Stockdale Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-09-27 2021-09-27 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.238 Does mislabeling COVID-19 elicit the perception of threat and reduce blame? https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/225 <p>Associating a life-threatening crisis with a geographic locality can stigmatize people from that area. However, such a strategy may reduce the public blame attributed to the government because the perceived foreign threat establishes a scapegoat, which transfers that blame. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we investigated whether the “Chinese Virus” label placed on COVID-19 has elicited opposition to Chinese immigrants and reduced public blame attributed to the federal government. We used a survey experiment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a list experiment to measure perceived threat. The descriptive analysis suggested a negative attitude toward Chinese immigrants overall, in which conservatives expressed stronger negative attitudes than did liberals and moderates. While labelling COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” did not make a difference overall, our exploratory results shows that it led to a significant increase in liberals’ perception that Chinese immigrants are a threat. However, the “Chinese Virus” label showed no effect overall in reducing the extent to which either liberals or conservatives’ attributed blame to the federal government.</p> Chengxin Xu Yixin Liu Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-05-30 2021-05-30 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.225 Making sense of performance information on effectiveness, costs, and equality during the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of reference points for citizens’ performance information use https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/205 <p>This paper uses the COVID-19 pandemic as an extreme case to test whether reference points affect how citizens use performance information on effectiveness, cost, and equality. Drawing on the evaluability hypothesis, the paper argues that citizens are more likely to make decisions based on performance information on equality and disregard performance information on effectiveness and costs when no reference points are available to aid interpretation. The paper uses a pre-registered between-subject conjoint survey experiment on 2,025 Danish citizens to test expectations. Respondents were randomly drawn to rate either one fictive government strategy to combat the Coronavirus—with no opportunity to compare performance information between strategies—or two strategies—with the opportunity to compare performance information between strategies. The strategies varied on effectiveness (mortality rate), costs (overall economic costs) and equality (distribution of the economic costs and access to testing). Results show that when respondents are presented with one strategy, only performance information on equality affects ratings. Strategies with lower fatality and lower economic costs are thus not rated higher than strategies with higher fatality and higher economic costs holding other factors constant. In contrast, when respondents are presented with two strategies, performance information on mortality rate and economic cost plays a significant role for citizens’ ratings. Even during a high-information high salience crisis such as COVID-19, citizens are thus more likely to make decisions based on performance information on equality than effectiveness and cost when no ‘yardstick’ is available. Results imply that performance information on effectiveness and cost risk being drown out by other information easier to interpret if not presented with relevant reference points.</p> Maria Falk Mikkesen Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-09-27 2021-09-27 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.205 Everything hacked? What is the evidential value of the experimental public administration literature? https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/239 <p>The rise of behavioral public administration provides new perspectives – especially from a psychological point of view – to understand public administration theories and the growing interest in using experiments to enhance the internal validity of empirical studies. However, psychology and other social sciences are undergoing a replication crisis where experimental results often do not replicate. One reason for the limited replicability is the publication bias sparked by journals’ preference for significant effects and the resulting incentive to create significant results. This study employs a meta-analytical approach to examine the evidential value of experimental evidence in public administration. It uses the <em>p</em>-curve method to test whether this body of research is dominated by selectively reporting significant results. The analysis includes 172 statistically significant findings published in top public administration journals and shows that the distribution of <em>p</em> values of these findings is right-skewed. Such a distribution indicates that the experimental public administration research contains evidential value, which means it is not solely the result of selective reporting of significant results. Although the analysis shows a good sign, we discuss important practices to further strengthen the validity and reliability of experimental methods in public administration. </p> Dominik Vogel Chengxin Xu Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-06-30 2021-06-30 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.239 Putting out the ‘unwelcome mat:’ The Announced Public Charge Rule reduced safety net enrollment among exempt noncitizens https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/200 <p>Government action shapes the perceived and actual costs of citizens’ interactions with the state. By manipulating these costs, policymakers can affect citizens’ willingness to engage with the state, strongly impacting short- and long-term wellbeing. In September 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to change how an immigrant’s likelihood of becoming a “public charge” would be evaluated. Once adopted, the rule would penalize certain classes of noncitizens for using safety net programs, potentially jeopardizing their application for permanent residence. We hypothesize that this proposed change increased psychological and learning burdens for low-income immigrants well beyond those directly impacted by the rule. Specifically, we used difference-in-differences models to analyze whether the announcement reduced safety net use among two groups exempt from the rule’s provisions: any WIC enrollee and noncitizen SNAP enrollees that are already legal permanent residents, refugees, or asylees. Even though the WIC program was excluded from the proposed rule, we find reductions in overall WIC use after the announcement. In addition, we show that SNAP enrollment decreased differentially after the announcement for noncitizens, nearly all of whom were likely exempt from the rule.</p> Jeremy Barofsky Ariadna Vargas Dinardo Rodriguez Eva Matos Anthony Barrows Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-10-15 2021-10-15 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.200 Undergraduate student role models: Reinforcing the higher education message? https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/252 <p>This study draws upon previous research to establish if ‘<em>low cost, high volume</em>’ university outreach interventions change subsequent application behavour. The results of two distinct but related randomised controlled trials with two-armed designs (RCT 1, n=2,199; RCT 2, n=1,166) compared application outcomes between recipients and non-recipients of messages from existing undergraduates. The research sought to determine if student role model messaging reinforced prior exposure to the University outreach programme and thereby influenced recipient behavour, in terms of applications and acceptances to that specific institution.</p> <p>The first trial found moderate statistical evidence that sending an email, written by and addressed from an existing undergraduate, to prospective applicants resulted in the opposite of the intended effect; reducing the rate of applications to the University. The second trial found no statistical evidence of any difference in application or acceptance rates amongst the treatment cohort, who received a personal letter in the post from two current undergraduate students, in comparison to the control group who received no correspondence. This reinforces the notion that there is no ‘<em>one size fits all</em>’ programme of widening participation interventions; successful ‘messaging’ is not necessarily transferrable, and can even backfire, given different characteristics of activity providers and recipient cohorts.</p> Michael Kerrigan Grace Harvey Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-11-02 2021-11-02 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.252 Tangible information and charitable giving: When do nonprofit overhead costs matter? https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/254 <p>Nonprofit organizations in the U.S. have been under the pressure to demonstrate their “worthiness” by minimizing overhead costs. Prior experiment studies find that donors respond negatively to high overhead costs when overhead information is highlighted. In reality, donors receive all sorts of information about nonprofit organizations from various channels. While high overhead has been found to reduce donors’ perceived impact and donations, providing other types of tangible information can increase charitable giving by enhancing donors’ perceived impact. When other types of information are available, to what degree overhead aversion still exists? We use two online survey experiments to examine how information on overhead costs and donation use affect giving decisions in a single-organization and two-organization evaluation setting. We found that only a small proportion of people demonstrated overhead aversion when presented with a single organization. There was stronger evidence of overhead aversion when participants were asked to compare and choose between two organizations. Nonetheless, providing tangible information about what donations can buy mitigated overhead aversion in both settings. This study contributes to the growing experimental research on the relationship between overhead ratios and charitable giving, and provides practical insights for nonprofits hoping to ameliorate overhead aversion and increase donation support.</p> Heng Qu Jamie Levine Daniel Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-11-15 2021-11-15 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.254 Exploring nonprofit dilemmas through a new lens: Introduction to the symposium on experimental and behavioral approaches in nonprofit and voluntary sector research https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/281 <p>Experimental studies have just begun to diffuse slowly in nonprofit research, reflecting the general recognition that experimental studies can help nonprofit researchers overcome some limitations of the methods that have traditionally been used. This special issue includes four papers that consider the diversity of experimental research in nonprofit studies. First, a systematic literature review of experimental studies in fundraising provides a nice overview of how experimental studies have been adopted for nonprofit research. The other three articles in this symposium cover important topics that have garnered growing attention in the field of nonprofit management --promoting diversity, donor resistance to the overhead myth, and the role of nudging in crowdfunding donations. Taken together, the four articles in this symposium strengthen our understanding of how experimental approaches can address some of the most pressing questions for the nonprofit and voluntary sector. The studies covered here suggest nearly limitless potential applications of properly designed experimental studies to address unique nonprofit challenges. The symposium issue articles also help nonprofit researchers to shift the research inquiry to individuals to address nonprofit dilemmas through the behavioral lens.&nbsp;</p> Mirae Kim Kelly LeRoux Dyana Mason Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-10-15 2021-10-15 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.281 Nudges to increase completion of welfare applications https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/237 <p>The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash assistance to very-low-income families with children. Application procedures to receive TANF benefits, however, often involve substantial transaction costs likely to reduce take-up. Using a randomized controlled trial design, we estimate the marginal effects of a personalized telephone-call reminder to increase TANF application completion in southwest Michigan, where applicants must visit a regional public employment office at least four times to complete their application for benefits. Compared to a generic telephone call, we find that personalizing reminder calls did not increase participation in the initial appointment at the public employment office. Additionally, reminders before remaining appointments, combined with the personalized reminder call to attend the orientation, did not increase attendance at appointments after orientation.</p> Gabrielle Pepin Christopher O'Leary Dallas Oberlee Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-06-29 2021-06-29 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.237 Public support for ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ public policies: Review of the evidence https://journal-bpa.org/index.php/jbpa/article/view/220 <p>This article reviews the literature on public support for ‘soft’ versus ‘hard’ policy instruments for behaviour change, and the factors that drive such preferences. Soft policies typically include ‘moral suasion’ and educational campaigns, and more recently behavioural public policy approaches like nudges. Hard policy instruments, such as laws and taxes, restrict choices and alter financial incentives. In contrast to the public support evidenced for hard policy instruments during COVID-19, prior academic literature pointed to support for softer policy instruments. We investigate and synthesise the evidence on when people prefer one type of policy instrument over another. Drawing on multi-disciplinary evidence, we identify perceived effectiveness, trust, personal experience and self-interest as important determinants of policy instrument preferences, along with broader factors including the choice and country context. We further identify various gaps in our understanding that informs and organise a future research agenda around three themes. Specifically, we propose new directions for research on what drives public support for hard versus soft behavioural public policies, highlighting the value of investigating the role of individual versus contextual factors (especially the role of behavioural biases); how preferences evolve over time; and whether and how preferences spillovers across different policy domains.</p> Sanchayan Banerjee Manu Savani Ganga Shreedhar Copyright (c) 2021 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0 2021-05-28 2021-05-28 4 2 10.30636/jbpa.42.220