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Can Simple Nudges and Workshops Improve Diet Quality? Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Bangladesh

Kelly A. Davidson, Jaclyn D. Kropp, Conner Mullally () and Md. Wakilur Rahman

American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2021, vol. 103, issue 1, 253-274

Abstract: Despite improvements in food access and affordability around the world, low‐quality diets persist. Public policy affecting food choice may have a role to play alongside efforts to improve access to healthy foods. This study uniquely explores the potential for dietary interventions to encourage healthy food choice among adults in a developing country. We evaluate two dietary interventions using a randomized control trial in Bangladesh: a behavioral change communication workshop that emphasized national dietary guidelines and a “nudge” in the form of a plate printed with nutrition recommendations. We study the performance of both interventions in two environments: a lab‐in‐the‐field experiment where food choices are discreetly observed at two lunch events and in the home using household survey data. The workshop improves diet quality in the lab and the home, although its impact is less precisely estimated in the latter setting. We find no effect of the plate in the lab during the same lunch event when the plate is received. The plate is effective at home, and the nudge effects of in‐home exposure persist in the lab even when the plate is not being used. Receipt of the plate at the first lunch event followed by one month of subsequent in‐home access to the plate improves food choice at the second event. Combining treatments does not increase their effectiveness. We conclude that nudges improve diet quality in our study context, but more evidence is needed to determine the effects of workshop messages in the home.

Date: 2021
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