Incentivizing Healthy Eating in Children: An Investigation of the “Ripple” and “Temporal” Effects of Reward-Based Interventions
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Rising childhood obesity rates have made children’s dietary habits a priority on the policy agenda. Although previous studies have established the effectiveness of using small reward-based incentives in inducing the choice and consumption of healthier foods among children, little is known about their impact outside of experimental settings or their effectiveness over time when administered daily. This paper presents the results of a field experiment conducted to provide insight on these matters. The study employs a pretest-posttest within-subject design and was conducted at a summer program catering to low-income children between the ages of 5 and 12. Corroborating existing studies, the introduction of small reward-based incentives was found to induce large increases in the number of children choosing the healthy dessert options after lunch but disaggregating the results by week and days suggests that their impact diminishes over time. Attempts to ascertain their effect outside of experimental settings did not indicate that the introduction of rewards had any adverse effects, but also did not provide definitive results. Consequently, further research is needed in this regard.