Nudging Early Reduces Administrative Burden: Three Field Experiments to Improve Code Enforcement

Source: Elizabeth Linos, Lisa T. Quan, Elspeth Kirkman, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Early View, November 5, 2019
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From the abstract:
In the past decade, public sector organizations around the world have worked to simplify administrative processes as a way to improve user experience and compliance. Academic evidence on administrative burden supports this approach and there is a strong body of research showing that learning costs, compliance costs, and psychological costs help to explain why residents do not always take up programs for which they are eligible. This article considers the role of these types of costs in a different set of resident‐state interactions: compliance with regulations. We present the results of three large field experiments aimed at improving resident compliance with municipal housing codes using targeted behavioral interventions. We find that contacting property owners earlier, redesigning first notices, and proactively communicating with previous violators, can significantly improve compliance by 14.7 percent, 3.3 percent, and 9.2 percent, respectively, with costs savings ranging from 6 to 15 percent of a city’s annual enforcement budget. Our results counterintuitively suggest that sometimes adding steps to an administrative process can reduce the costs associated with the resident‐state interaction.