A Nudge for Better Health: Taking Advantage of Income Supports

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Transfers and work supports such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) increase family resources, and may enable households to make critical investments in their members’ health and human capital. Yet not all eligible households claim this tax credit, losing out on income support that can have potentially large effects on health, education, and other dimensions of well-being of family members.

The research team is working with several state agencies and external nonprofits on three studies to test “nudge”-like outreach strategies aimed at encouraging potential recipients to file taxes and claim their State of California EITCs.

  • The first study uses case files for families receiving CalFresh (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to identify those eligible for the EITC. Approximately 40,000 families in San Diego County will be randomly assigned to either a control condition of no intervention or a treatment wherein they will receive a series of personalized text messages informing them of their likely credit amount and how to file their taxes.
  • The second study will send non-personalized messages to a randomly chosen subset of a much larger group of 800,000 families.
  • The third study will test mail-based interventions that vary the form of the message across roughly 40,000 additional families.

The study is being conducted under the California Policy Lab, which is developing research partnerships with the California agencies that make it possible to conduct the necessary data linking and analysis.

Principal Investigators: Jesse Rothstein and Hilary Hoynes, University of California, Berkeley