Nudges to Increase Completion of Welfare Applications Experimental Evidence from Michigan

Main Article Content

Gabrielle Pepin
Christopher J. O'Leary
Dallas Oberlee

Keywords

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Nudge, Welfare-to-work, Randomized controlled trial, Application costs

Abstract

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash assistance to very-low-income families with children. Application procedures to receive TANF benefits, however, often involve substantial transaction costs likely to reduce take-up. Using a randomized controlled trial design, we estimate the marginal effects of a personalized telephone-call reminder to increase TANF application completion in southwest Michigan, where applicants must visit a regional public employment office at least four times to complete their application for benefits. Compared to a generic telephone call, we find that personalizing reminder calls did not increase participation in the initial appointment at the public employment office. Additionally, reminders before remaining appointments, combined with the personalized reminder call to attend the orientation, did not increase attendance at appointments after orientation.