Panel Paper: Motivating Bureaucrats with Non-Monetary Incentives When State Capacity Is Weak: Evidence from a Large Field Experiment in Peru

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 213 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Andrew Dustan, Vanderbilt University, Stanislao Maldonado, Universidad del Rosario and Juan Manuel Hernandez-Agramonte, Innovations for Poverty Action

We study how non-monetary incentives, motivated by recent advances in behavioral economics, affect civil servant performance in a context where state capacity is weak. We collaborated with the Government of Peru to experimentally vary the content of text messages targeted to civil servants in charge of a school maintenance program. These messages were designed in a way that incorporates behavioral insights in dimensions related to information provision, social norms, and loss aversion as well as some weak forms of monitoring and auditing. We find that these messages are a very cost-effective strategy to enforce compliance with national policies among civil servants. We further study the role of social norms and the salience of social benefits in a follow-up experiment and explore the external validity of our original results by implementing a related experiment with civil servants from a different national program. The findings of these new experiments support our original results and provide additional insights regarding the context in which these incentives may work. Our results highlight the importance of carefully designed non-monetary incentives as a tool to improve civil servants performance when the state lacks of institutional mechanisms to enforce compliance.