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May 2016Vol. 17, No. 3Behavioral Economics Intervention

A report from the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) reviews findings from an intervention implemented by the OPRE-sponsored Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, which focuses on how behavioral sciences tools can be used to help deliver more effective programs aimed at improving the well-being of low-income families and individuals. Developed in collaboration with California's Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), the intervention aimed to increase the number of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients who "reengaged" in Los Angeles County's welfare-to-work program.

In 2013, according to the report, some parents with young children in California were exempted from participating in the Los Angeles County welfare-to-work program. However, due to changes in State policy, this exemption ended in 2013. While attempts were made to reengage these parents in the program, about half of the parents did not attend mandatory reengagement appointments. DPSS and BIAS worked together to create additional materials to send to participants to attempt to reschedule reengagement appointments. The new materials consisted of simplified notices and two behaviorally informed and personalized notes that were sent to different groups of participants:

  • A notice highlighting the losses they might face by not attending the reengagement appointment
  • A notice highlighting the benefits they might receive by attending

In addition, there was a control group that did not receive additional information. Results found that participant engagement in the program increased for those who received a behaviorally informed notice, and the notices indicating losses participants would face by not engaging in the program increased positive engagement at 30 days by 4.4 percentage points.

To read more, access Framing the Message: Using Behavioral Economics to Engage TANF Recipients on the OPRE website at