Oktober 2019

IZA DP No. 12675: Facilitating Healthy Dietary Habits: An Experiment with a Low Income Population

Michèle Belot, Jonathan James, Jonathan Spiteri

This paper tests an intervention aimed at facilitating (cognitively) the adoption of healthy dietary habits. We provide easy-to-understand information about the risks of developing diabetes or heart diseases and give easy-to-follow dietary recommendations to minimize these risks. We implement two variations, one consisting of generic information, the other consisting of information tailored to the individual, the latter resembling newly developed on-line health assessment tools. On top of the information treatment, we implement a second experimental variation nudging people into spending more time thinking about their dietary choices. We find evidence that the information intervention leads to healthier choices in the short run, but mostly in the generic treatment. Surprisingly, we find that people are on average pessimistic about their health, and therefore receive good news on average when the information is tailored to them. We find no evidence that increasing the time available to make choices leads to healthier choices, and find no evidence of long-term changes in habits. These results do not support a bounded rationality explanation for poor dietary choices.