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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Mar 19;116(12):5293-5298. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1802874115. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

Testing for crowd out in social nudges: Evidence from a natural field experiment in the market for electricity.

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Department of Economics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637.
Questrom School of Business, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215;
Department of Economics, Finance, and Legal Studies, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487.
Department of Economics, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302.


This study considers the response of household electricity consumption to social nudges during peak load events. Our investigation considers two social nudges. The first targets conservation during peak load events, while the second promotes aggregate conservation. Using data from a natural field experiment with 42,100 households, we find that both social nudges reduce peak load electricity consumption by 2 to 4% when implemented in isolation and by nearly 7% when implemented in combination. These findings suggest an important role for social nudges in the regulation of electricity markets and a limited role for crowd out effects.


conservation; economics; energy; experiment; nudge

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