Behavioral economics examines why individuals make decisions that compromise their own future wellbeing and the welfare of others. It incorporates psychological insights to examine systematic behavioral biases in decision-making. We categorize these biases into four spectra that individuals, often unknowingly, make decisions along.
We then leverage several tools from behavioral economics that may improve reproductive health. Each of the tools addresses one or more of the spectra listed above. Please note the selected examples are not policy or program recommendations but rather illustrations of how a behavioral economics tool could be translated into the reproductive health context. These have not necessarily been researched or evaluated.
Click on each tool to learn more about the existing evidence and areas for further research.
The option an individual will receive if he or she does
|Offering every woman contraception immediately following childbirth, an abortion, or first menses|
Reminders can help decrease the cognitive burden
|Text message reminders for contraceptive refills or antenatal care appointments|
The language used to describe a set of choices can
|Varying education or counseling to present antenatal check-ups as a gain versus avoided loss|
Pre-committing to a particular decision can help people
|“Locked” savings programs that tie money to specific school or health outcomes|
Exploiting an individual’s “mental accounting” to
|Cash transfers or voluntary savings labeled for health or education expenditures|
Token rewards, particularly those creating social
|Vouchers or in-kind gifts to reward health worker performance or patient compliance|
Harnessing social norms or pressures to encourage
|Publicly available report cards for providers to increase accountability and transparency|
|Timing & Salience of Information||
Presenting information in a targeted way, at a specific
|Provision of information through trusted sources or changing the word order on outreach materials|
Increasing the prominence of an individual’s gender, race,
|Appealing to women as mothers, rather than wives|
Making the terms of a decision more clearly understood,
|Minimizing paperwork at clinic visits and streamlining counseling materials|