On the transition to a sustainable economy: Field experimental evidence on behavioral interventions

Mirthe Boomsma

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This dissertation studies the impact of behavioral interventions on waste sorting and energy conservation, two domains where sustained environmental conservation has the potential to substantially reduce social costs. The interventions are evaluated by means of field experiments. The first essay investigates the relative impact of behavioral interventions versus neoclassical interventions. It finds that interventions that draw on extrinsic motivations have an immediate and sizable effect on waste sorting behavior, but also that the average treatment effects attenuate steeply over time. In contrast, the essay finds equally sizeable yet long-lasting effects of a treatment designed to increase households' intrinsic motivation to sort waste. The second essay analyzes the effect of social learning interventions. It considers two interventions, one aimed at leveraging social learning via role models and a second one via feedback on the prevalence of organic waste sorting in the household's direct vicinity. The essay finds that both interventions increase waste sorting in the short run, but only the social feedback's impact is long-lasting. The third essay analyzes residential energy consumption, and how real-time disaggregated consumption feedback corrects consumer mistakes in this domain. The essay finds this feedback, provided by way of in-home displays, to reduce household energy consumption. The savings are largest on gas consumption, and the evidence suggests the effect to reflect reductions in space heating. The three essays are preceded by an introductory chapter that introduces the topic of study and the field experimental methodology. The dissertation closes with a concluding chapter that reviews its contribution to the literature on behavioral interventions and its implications for Dutch environmental policy.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • van Soest, Daan, Promotor
  • Vollaard, Ben, Co-promotor
Award date8 Sept 2021
Place of PublicationTilburg
Print ISBNs9789056686550
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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