Thoughts and insights from our work applying behavioral science to social problems

Brain, Meet Modern Journalism

by Elizabeth Weingarten and Omar Parbhoo

A lesson one of us (Elizabeth) learned in journalism school: The best first sentences, also known as the lead, are vacuums. Great journalists use them to demand a slice of readers’ limited cognitive bandwidth and suck them into a story. If the story is well-written and interesting enough, your audience will read and understand it, lectured […]

How to Prevent the Minor Errors that Disqualify Mail-In Ballots

by Maya Alper

At first glance, mail-in ballot numbers seem to presage a coming disaster: during the primaries more than 550,000 mail ballots were rejected, many disqualified for seemingly small errors, like envelopes sealed with tape. But these numbers don’t signal an inevitable November Nightmare. In fact, the science of human behavior can help explain both why these […]

Empowering Girls as Agents of Change in Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy

by Arielle Gorstein & Emily Zimmerman

An unplanned pregnancy during adolescence can dramatically impact a girl’s health and economic future, yet use of modern family planning (FP) services among adolescents remains low in many places. The challenge is particularly great in many countries in Africa, where despite a global rise in FP use among adolescents, adolescent fertility remains high and nearly […]

Using Behavioral Insights to Make the Most of Emergency Social Protection Cash Transfers

by Laura Rawlings, World Bank, and Jessica Jean-Francois and Catherine MacLeod, ideas42

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries across the globe have been adapting social assistance policies to support their populations. In fact, since March 2020, 139 countries and territories have planned, implemented, or adapted cash transfers to support their citizens. Cash transfers specifically make up about half of the social protection programs implemented to address […]

8 Strategies for College Leaders Advancing Change Initiatives

by Cassie Taylor

Beyond the stress of actually living through the COVID-19 crisis themselves, college leaders are in the midst of having to make substantial changes to the higher education system in what feels like real time. From ongoing efforts to improve student services to the urgent need to transition courses online due to the pandemic, the entire […]

The College Student Journey in the Time of COVID-19

by Jeff Ott & Cassie Taylor

We know there are often invisible behavioral barriers at every point in the college process. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic and its repercussions impact every point along a student’s college journey — exacerbating existing barriers and creating new ones for more than 25 million students across the U.S. All students, especially low-income and first-generation students who already […]

When Choices Don’t Match Preferences: Better Family Planning Through Behavioral Design

by Elizabeth McElwee & Emily Zimmerman

This post originally appeared on the Breakthrough Action + Research blog.  Thanks to global efforts, family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services have made great strides. However, many people still do not use these services even when they currently want to avoid or delay pregnancy. Behavioral economics brings a unique perspective to the choices people […]

Now Is the Time to Improve the WIC Participant Experience

by Rebecca Oran

The ways in which participants experience public benefit programs like The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), often overlooked, is more relevant now than ever. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is facing historic numbers of individuals who are out of work. Many find themselves in the position of […]

New Playbook Helps Officials Prepare People to #VoteSafe

by Elizabeth Weingarten & Omar Parbhoo

In May 2020, we began hearing a pattern of concerns from Secretary of State offices across the country. One office told us they were worried about voters completing and signing their mail-in ballots incorrectly. Other offices agonized about how a steep decline in poll worker volunteers, many of whom were in populations most vulnerable to […]

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