Panel Paper: Anchor Management: A Field Experiment Encouraging TANF Participants to Meet Program Deadlines

Friday, November 9, 2018
Madison A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Katherine N. Gan1, Karissa Minnich1, Ryan T. Moore1,2 and David Yokum1, (1)The Lab @ DC, (2)American University

Many families, despite need and eligibility, have their federal cash assistance benefits terminated for failure to complete program recertification paperwork in a timely fashion. This project aimed to ease the psychological frictions by designing and sending an instructional reminder letter based on behavioral insights to families recertifying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Based on a randomized controlled trial (n = 3,539) in Washington, DC, we find that sending a behaviorally-informed reminder letter increased the number of families who maintained their TANF participation by 14 percent. Further, we offer suggestive evidence that anchoring people to a deadline month may be sufficient to overcome procrastination without creating the compliance challenges of anchoring them to a specific day. Adopting the most effective letter for all recertifying families in DC would result in 766 more families continuing their TANF participation uninterrupted each year.