« Freakonomics Radio

175. Why You Should Bribe Your Kids

2014-07-17 | 🔗
Educational messaging looks good on paper but kids don’t respond to it -- and adults aren’t much better.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This podcast dynamically inserts audio advertisements of varying lengths for each download. As a result, the transcription time indexes may be inaccurate.
Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order So try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours. Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, if you like to listen to for economic radio without ads the police. Do that is sticker premium five dollars a month and you can get a free month trial by going to stick your premium dot com and use a promo code freak. You also get access to all our bonus. Episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that sticker premium, dot, com, promo code, freak thanks hello, John List, Stephen
gardener. Hide your man, I'm great, hey, doing great dread. John list is, and economists at university Chicago and he's a family man, five now. Do you never have to bribe and your kids, I'm just curious, every now, and then I have to incentivize them. I don't call it bribing, I call it incentivize in them my kids refused to eat seafood. So warm. This comes directly from my wife who claims to have gotten a bad piece of fish when she was a thing, greater, but I'm a big seafood lover and we were in the Bahamas about six months ago and I thought of an incentive scheme for my kids that included a large sum of money if they would eat fish for seven consecutive and have that work out. There are three of the five kids it worked for. They collected the money
and I was hoping then that they would acquire a taste for before they say you know, dad whitefish is actually pretty good. You know one time we had crab legs, but no zero of five for the long run. The minute we we touched ground back here states, kids have not touch sense, even the three or five were, who read in a fish out of the Bahamas, and how much did they get from you? A better talk about that off. Air, but as it were, a lot of money, so those three three of them at least lady pretty well. What about it it may they responded to the incentives, a fashion but you're incentive in giving them that be cash. Downy was not just to get indeed for the weak. Presumably absolutely. I wanted to modify their long term behaviour in its hard to the lesson that it's really hard to change habits.
I'm here from W and my see this is free economics, radio, the pot cast that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host Stephen Governor
so is it possible to bribe kids to eat the foods you want him to eat and even, if it's possible, is it desirable? That is what we are talking about on today, show and not just about bribing and eating we'll talk about how riving incentives may work with all kinds of behaviors. Now you just heard John list describe his failure to bribe. Excuse me to incentivize his kids to eat something that in one eat. That was his experience as apparent. She might think that, as an economist John List also doesn't believe, then incentives can change. The way could see
but you'd, be wrong. List recently ran a field experiment in Chicago, along with another economist on you saw me ok, so what we are trying to do is understand what kinds of small behavioral Natchez or education we can use to actually improve. Children's future uses that summit. She is at the University of Wisconsin. It matters and we're using this after school program called the kids CAFE and their twenty four of these in the city of Chicago and surrounding area. Kids, come Ere they receive some help on their homework and in their given free food and What we do is we randomize is different. Kids cafes, my say randomize I mean we randomly put different kids cafes into different treatments. We have one treatment where we tell the kids can,
I just carry on as you are, but at the end of the food choice, we're gonna give kids a second choice. It's gonna be over which deserve to have, and they can either have the healthy dessert or they can have the less healthy one. And what are the two dessert you're offering the hell? in the less wealthy, so the healthier dessert is actually a good question. We thought about this for a long time and tat. The healthy dessert is a cook I mean, I'm sorry, wishful thinking, the unhappy I the unhealthy, deserted the cookie. What kind of cooking we really work? Why careful and weed chose a loaf sugar a whole week cooking. For that reason, and that's a good one. We didn't feel comfortable going in and giving fifteen hundred kids who are at risk for obesity. A really high sugar, delicious cookie. Ok, are the healthy dessert. Then we agree
ran into a problem. So we really wanted to use fresh fruit and, unfortunately, because of the logistics of how this food is delivered, which is actually another big problem, with the way that we deliver food to kids in these school interim settings is that we couldn't get fresh fruit there, and so we had to use dried fruit, which has sugar concentration problems of its own, that fresh fruit does Novia. Yes exactly so one thing we can't do is say that for this particular fifteen hundred kids really improve their nutrition, because all we did is we observe their choices and that all we need to do is believe that most kids are going to choose the cookie and that that's the less healthy option and that's exact what happened. Ok, so all else equal, you ve got fifteen hundred kids roughly they have their meal and then they do homework and maybe hang out play a little bit and then, at the end there having this, I'm a snack with a dessert with a choice: yes, yeah, ok and just described to me: how
but this is how the experiment itself has set up. How is the choice set constructed, so we announced to kids that they get a choice of this deserted me tell them they can only choose one item and that they have to eat it there in the cafeteria and then we come around and we have these trays in which we have a large number of cookies a large number of fruit, and then we just have kids choose one all Kids, we know all their names, we record exactly what they ve selected, an that's our control group, ok and you're. Doing this. For a few days, a few weeks to establish a baseline has at work. We and twice, and we have kids make this choice and what we find that less than twenty percent of kids are choosing healthy and then we come in for a period of five more day. In which we now have these treatments. Schools actually receive incentives are education and what we find there we come in. We re all this information about the food pyramids. So we tell kids, look you re
should choose the fruit fruits really good for you? We have this campaign, it's called them each time, So we tell him you should eat strong. You have You gonna be strong on the playground. You're gonna learn more at school scheme to be very good for you, this really good for your health. The USDA recommends that you need more fruit and we show the food permits. We have all these. Busters meat. We walk around me shown these posters with food permanent and die kids. Don't improve their food choice at all Ok, so teaching them doesn't improve, their choices are, doesn't change your choices now before we declared that a dead end do we know that this mode of education, was a good one or maybe like when you're telling me that if you tell me that if I eat this little cup of raisins and dried apricot said. I'm gonna be like a stood on the playground and superstar in the classroom. I'm just gonna say Anna nice, but I don't believe you that does that sound compelling to me do you know of the education is actually considered legitimate by them. Well it
Education that you would administer. It you went on the USDA website and pulled off their information material right now. I know that, but I'm saying maybe the USDA isn't so good at this. I realize I'm throwing a soup, the thing in the middle of your smart thing, but not so, obviously we could be using their own education. Gesture, so we can say much about whether it's the right education or not, but what we can say is that we give him this education. We tell him all about how healthy food is and eight out of ten kid still she's a cookie okay. So that's not working so well what else you have up your sleeve. We come in and we have these incentives that we sought. We didn't know what to do with these incentives as they were. They were little bit lame. So we just hand these pans we and these rubber bracelets, and then we had these tiny plastic trophies. That just said I ate strong and we told kids
few, choose the fruit and you eat it. You get to pick out one of these prizes and now we have eight out of ten kids who are choosing the fruit. Oh my God for plastic trophies and pens and rubber bracelets, that's right. So these things are very popular. The re, cheap, silly causes less and a dime, each and kids are choosing healthy and dad they don't have any educate, No, that's why they should be choosing healthy, at least from us, but now we really improve their choice now, how do we know? This is not just a novelty that it's the first time they get offered the the incentives or does it not even matters it just a matter of kind of switching the habit or the preference, but actually works every time. So we come in five times and every time we have these really high rates of selection of the fruit and do they actually eat the fruit them or
we then have to eat. I may have to eat a together twice a year, the emptied it and did you check their cheeks and so on, like in prison to make sure they swallowed or the stickeen under the table. Are you it doesn't go that far. We were actually pretty careful. So this study took, A lot of undergraduate Samina receive Chicago who were walking around and in monitoring these kids So what did the researchers take away from this experiment? overall. Already studies really show, first of all that you can make a small change in a school setting any food setting for kids and have it have a big impact on choices, It shows that education is not enough. We actually do fine We combine education with incentives that that has the strongest long term, a fact which I didn't address earlier, but that's an important point. In addition to education, we need to really give kids a moment
where they can make a choice, and that's the moment where we can provide a nudge where incentives can act as a great knowledge for that. If I'm a restaurant, I want to sell out of food, I want to make the money than are able to make if the government, I think, especially as I'm, paying more more for people's health care long term as the government, I want to keep people healthier and therefore I have an interest in getting people eat more nutritious sleep, so I can put some pressure on restaurants to either serve more nutritious food would serve less food or help them somehow come up with a scheme to least educate people or make them. A little bit more likely to eat more nutritious food. So I can have calorie coun sore maybe even subsidize healthier food choices. That seems to be fairly I believe you see evidence of that kind of thing going on working well one project we have, that is very effective. It is small,
non profit, grocery store and necessities, Chicago called Louise Groceries and we ve got it. And we ve been running studies in which we give adults incentives for choosing at least five fresh fruits and vegetables and their cart and work. By giving them a dollar for every five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. They buy a shopping trip. And were comparing that shoe another treatment in which adult, they're just receiving some educational information about why it's important eat, fruits and vegetables. And Are we see almost the same results that were seeing with these kids? So enough bill. Environment were adults, are making decisions about purchasing incentives, really work so that take always here seem to be that way must be subsidized for their dried or fresh, yes right and that kids can be bribed successfully. Yeah adults can be bribed successfully to.
Coming up on for economics radio, so we can incentivize choices that benefit. Society, at least in some cases, but why should we have to think that this is one of them? Most important issues that humanity faces is making this trade off between doing something, costly. Now that will benefit and me or humanity in the future,
things like staying in school things like saving for retirement things like adopt in green technologies. Also, if you are not a subscriber to this punk ass, well, please become on its free, easy. You can sign up at Itunes and then you'll get the next episode in your sleep. Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine and with new, every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order
so try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours. Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day for economic radio is supported by zipper. Creetur businesses have had to be flexible disease from working remote. We too pivoting their business models for long term survival. If you are in charge of hiring for your business. These pivots have made your even more challenging, thankfully theirs One place that you can count on to make hiring easier, zip, recruiter, dot com, flash freak, zip, recruiters technology finds the right. People for your job and invite them to apply its. No wonder that four out of five employers who post on recruiter, get equality candidate within the first
day and right now you can try zip recruiter for free at zip, recruiter, dot, com, slash freak, that's zip, recruiter, dot, com, slash freak! Yet I am giving Jacobs and I'm Deanna reasonable. We ve got a new podcast called if then worry politically taught to scientists engineers NASA folks, just a bunch of really smart, curious people about cool stuff, Julian. I think most people know you from your work on love and community, and most people would know you as friends, EC scientist Casey Heinz on Anti I ass, so we were both. But what most people don't know is that we're both really curious and passion? about stem if we have a more the first outlook in how we look at science and engineering and technology and map. Then what this is possible. I get
When I get to speak to these people carriages tat back into my curiosity excitement. You know that I have a kid about all these topics so come on this journey with as we learn from some of the poorest smartest people in their fields. If, then, is out now just search, if slash than to find the show that, if slash then no spaces, listen in stature, Apple, the serious Ex m F or wherever you get your PA casts. From W and Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's, your host, Stephen Governor, We heard on your stomach, described the field experiment. You worked on with John List
John List and I'm a professor at the university Chicago's Economics Department? What exactly does John was due? what I do is I go out into the real world and try to change for the better using field experience. That sounds pretty simple. Can you give me an example, very simple, so let's talk about a simple example that we're talking about today. What we're, after we're trying to explain, poured describe first of all the consumption choices of the underprivileged children in America. And once we see the types of foods with their consumers which is not a great thing. You know they have a choice between a cookie in a bowl of fruit. They choose the cookie sir, oh or ideas to go on. I can I who junk and others in Europe you for one second there is it fair to say that this is the kind of poor choice relatively poor choice it in underprivileged. Kid makes her
at the same choice that do you know a mediocre Lee privileged adult would make us, in other words, is this a function? Child letters is, I'm just curious to know what you know about food choice in children. Verses belts generally. Yes, so I think that this is a general problem, but you have the problem in an even stronger way amongst the underprivileged, who have less resources too used to purchase and consume healthier foods. So when I say underprivileged, I think this as our experimental testing ground, but nevertheless, ass. You do have the same problem throughout society. You have kids, in a run in obesity rate about one in five across Amerika and an urban settings. The obesity rate is low, but higher than that. But the general point here about all of this is that you have many problems where what you do now affects what happens later in you.
Usually we choose the easier decision or the easier action. Now you think about savings for retirement, you think about getting doktor checkups, you think about going to school. You think about engaging and risky behaviors, you think about adopting green technologies for our houses. In all of these cases, we usually choose the bad action. Action is to do what's best for us now to the detriment of the future, to the detriment of our future self. And nutritional choices right now are just one of these elements that we face in society, where we need kids to recognise the choice that you make now well critically, a fact. You're outcome the future,
there's an idea quite prevalent in our society, but if we can only teach people that they are making poor decisions now, that will adversely affect them later. Well, though, make better, visions now, but the experiment. The John list in an Islamic didn't Chicago trying to get kids to eat. Healthier snacks showed that an educational message didn't work at least not met setting soap. Maybe it's reasonable to think that educational messaging Isn't this potent as we right, I think in just about every walk of life. We have messages like get out of, Oh, do you know what you're? If your duty to vote time, we had ass, a gene in the states on smoking for decades in oh, you know with a combination of changing the prices of smoking, and what I mean by that is increasing. The tax rates
nah purchases of cigarettes along with Massa Jean those together formed a view important do or to curb smoking in the United States. But when you look at other countries, just gotta Europe, you can see that smoking is alive and well in Europe and they surely have the same information that we have detrimental effects of smoking, but I think every walk of life you have people saying stay in school, don't do drugs in our message, gene has a really hard time working in, I think by law, because a recipient of those messages is not a demand or of that information and if you're, not a d manner, you will have very little use for that. Information on people say we should be green, were ruining the plan. Because of carbon emissions of global warming, but again that's a problem where, if we herb our consumption of carbon. Now that hurts us, Herds are economic growth and we're not
see the advantages for fifty a hundred hundred fifty or two hundred years. People don't want to make that trade between now and then, do you think that policy makers and other you now incentive Creators are starting to get the message that educational messaging, especially, sort of moral tone to it is not very effective or do you see people in The academic and research realms where you live. Who understand this quite fully just look out at those policy. Acres and say our boy. They really don't get it yet ready. Sir, to see both on the one side. You have policymakers, who don't get it on the other side, of policymakers who really do get it, but that's really view the tool at their disposal. You see you messages cheap. You have government
she's right now, I'm working with the UK government to try to convince people to pay their taxes. You have many people who have not paid their income taxes in the UK, the UK government's sends out letters to them every year telling them please pay your taxes, so they ask us. Can you run some field experiments with us to help convince people to pay their taxes, and we propose all kinds of different incentives aims it. You know fines jail time. All these fine things at it. Item is dream about. In the policymakers say we can't do that. We can't change law, but what we can do is we can add those too cool. So sciences that you used back in your ninety ninety eight study and weaken, whose those two sentences which on moral suasion to try to get people to pay their taxes. As you see there
hard enough to know this might not be a great tool, but it's the best there here and it's not very costly in that's important to them. So John is the takeaway message of your study that it's better to bribe kids to eat healthy food, then just teach Adam? I think the message would be you wanna do both. I think you do not want to use messaging alone. If you do use messaging, you should come it with an incentive, because that will allow you to convince kids to make better choice. Tis, but it will also yield better consumption choices. I think we need to understand that this is a toolbar problem, not only the choice but the consumption, and what we find is that messaging hung with incentives, give you that outcome that set of outcomes that you want
and now take what you learn from this study, which is the incentives work in terms of food consumption and generalise it for me as much as you can not only out of the experimental realm but out of the child. Rome right, absolutely I you know. I think that this is one of the most important issue: said humanity faces. Is making this trade off between doing something costly. Now that will benefit me or humanity in the future Things like Spain and school things like saving for retirement things like adopting green technologies. We have to convince people right now.
To make the right choice for in many cases themselves, and also society and I believe, that a strong dosage of incentives combined with tasteful messages, will allow us to get to that point where we have people making the choices now that will yield the right outcomes in the future. So when you think about all of our major problems, it's a trade off through time and you have kids, who would rather skip school in. Go, have fun their sixteen years old then stay in a boring, algebra cliffs, it's a very simple point of calculus for them. They don't see that the future labour market returns are twelve percent for every year that they stay in school when Sixteen years old, you don't even think about. What's gonna happen when you're twenty five months us when you're eighteen and We need to combine the correct, scared of incentives
to align the kids choices with what society wants him to choose? so that's all well and good to say, and even if one believes that I personally tend to pretty much believe what what you're saying? What do you do? What is that asked of incentives for a sixteen year old, whose teetering on the edge of dropping out are not going to school? We, I think it's all sorts. On what Rome wherein if we want to talk about education, I think The solution is changing the prices to education. What I mean by that is taking some of the future rewards there. We as a society reap from the kids, in school and not committing crime in going to jail taken. Some of those reward it's in giving them to the kids now or giving them to the parents. Now two incentivize, the parent to make sure that the child stays in school take school seriously. It goes on and gets the re education to help society in the future that that might be different, then our food choices, for example, because we're
talking about sixteen year olds now in our food experiment, we're talking about six seven and eight year olds, instead Six seventeen year old with dollars doesn't make any sense. You know you have to choose, then the right incentives. We chose toys things like robber docks, really turned a seven year old on sought. I think in each case there is not a scam four bullet, but nevertheless, in each case, The long run. We need education because, like I said, habits are ward. Keep you goin in. I think the education and information change beliefs, but only over generations on it now I have my kids who are coming home and telling me Papa you better, not smoke that cigar, because it's really bad to smoke
when I went home and so my mom smoking. I never thought that it was a problem smoking, but now our kids there actually programmed to think that smoking is a really bad thing that has taken place over generations and that's where I think information education works over the long run when we change habits but you need initial incentives to change the motivations of our kids. Now we just don't want two generations of lost children, because we can change their habits. We need to change the motivations. Now I think incentives will do that a package of measures on the next for economics. Radio,
named jaw. Rogers asks us to question. Will forfeiting ten none of your income for the right to go to a church and experience at church congregation. Would I make you happy here or less happy rob Jaws asking because his parents tie ten percent of their income to their church. Here's his dad Wayne but I'll, be happier if I had that ten percent. In my four Owen K, I don't know therefore like it, would look a lot better if I had all the ten percent that I had given over the years. It's really two questions the jewels asking one whether giving a money in this case to a religious institution makes you happier. The other is whether religion itself makes you happy, or we will do our best to answer both questions that next time on for economic freedom, freak economics, radio is produced by W and Y see and Abner productions. Our staff includes David Herman, Gregg, resolves ski gretta com,
very Lamb, Susie, Luxembourg and Chris Ban in. If you are more free, comics radio you can subscribe to our Pont cast on Itunes or go to free economics, dot com, real fine! it's a radio, a blog, the books and more.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-13.