The behavioralist as nutritionist: leveraging behavioral economics to improve child food choice and consumption

John A. List, Anya Savikhin Samek

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67 Citations (Scopus)


We leverage behavioral economics to explore new approaches to tackling child food choice and consumption. Using a field experiment with >1500 children, we report several key insights. We find that incentives have large influences: in the control, 17% of children prefer the healthy snack, whereas introduction of small incentives increases take-up of the healthy snack to ~75%. There is some evidence that the effects continue post-treatment, consistent with a model of habit formation. We find little evidence that the framing of incentives (loss vs. gain) matters. Educational messaging alone has little effect, but we observe a combined effect of messaging and incentives: together they provide an important influence on food choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Child behavior
  • Educational messages
  • Field experiment
  • Food choice
  • Incentives

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