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Are Normative Appeals Moral Taxes? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Water Conservation

Daniel Brent (), Corey Lott, Michael Taylor, Joseph Cook, Kimberly Rollins () and Shawn Stoddard

Departmental Working Papers from Department of Economics, Louisiana State University

Abstract: We investigate how normative appeals for water conservation drive behavioral change using a large-scale field experiment. Using a new social comparison that reduces the correlation between pre-treatment consumption and the difference from the peer group, we isolate the normative component of the message. The strength of the message, which we define as a household's performance relative to a peer group, is a primary driver of social comparisons' efficacy, consistent with social compar- isons imposing a moral cost on excess consumption. Relative to a nudge highlighting financial savings, social comparisons generate less persistent water savings and are more dependent on multiple mailers.

Date: 2017-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe and nep-exp
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:lsu:lsuwpp:2017-07

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