Thanks to everyone who joined our #BEpoverty twitter chat. Here's a quick review of our conversation:



What’s a twitter chat?

Twitter chats strategically invite and, ideally subsequently engage, active tweeters as invited guests to coalesce their thoughts and facts on a specific theme over the course of a predetermined time frame. The conversation, over tweets, is captured through a common hashtag, #BEPoverty.

What will we discuss?

The aim of the twitter chat is to examine boundary conditions that limit individuals (especially in poverty) in following through on intentions. We hope that the insights and experiences of academics, practitioners, and other interested parties will illuminate our understanding of the topic as well as highlight future opportunities for research, intervention. The dialogue will revisit recent mixed results on behaviorally informed reminders.

Why participate in a twitter chat?

It’s easy and fun! Twitter chats are the in-person symposium version of tweeting, except that you don’t have to register for the event nor physically be present. All you need is a twitter account, which you can create for free. Twitter chats also provide a wonderful opportunity to connect with experts in fields of your interest and learn latest tools, tips, and resources. We’re excited about exploring this low-cost light-touch format for an inspiring dialogue.


Background materials

We will be adding to this list as we go along and following the event.

  • Recently, Yesim Orhun published a paper on poverty traps -- some of the obstacles that make it more expensive to be poor. Dr. Orhun will be joining us on twitter to discuss her finding. Read more in this recent Washington Post article (also, in the Chicago Tribune).

Behavioral Economics & Poverty

The emerging interdisciplinary field of behavioral economics considers sets of social and psychological factors and the ways they interact to affect a person’s decisions and choices. By recognizing the capacities, influences and limitations of the mind, behavioral economics expands our framework for understanding individual choice, and the reasons why intentions are not always followed by action.

The BE framework also provides new insights for program and policy design in the context of poverty that complement conventional income-enhancement strategies.  The demands of living with and juggling very low income to meet basic needs puts additional demands on decision-making cognitive processes that in turn drain attention and self-control that might otherwise be devoted to other investments including improving one’s own human capital, practicing good health, or being an attentive parent. In this way, a BE lens, for example, does not just suggest that information should be available but also that the way in which that information is communicated matters (e.g. the timing, content and format). Such information can be designed to minimize issues of low attention to program logistics and goals (e.g., due to distraction from financial or psychosocial stressors), mismatch between perceptions of self-identity and those assumed by programs, and miscalculation of rewards due to intertemporal difference between the notice and receipt of program benefits. In the context of poverty and economic instability, these design changes may support access, understanding, and follow-through.

Readings on BE & Poverty


More Fun Reads on BE & Poverty

BE Policy Design in the Context of Poverty – Example: Early Intervention

The birth of a child is a potentially powerful moment for programs to engage with caregivers to support and shape positive parenting practices. Like all parents, low-income parents may be willing and receptive to learning and doing what is best for their infant, but parenting during infancy is especially chaotic and stressful. This presents challenges to conventional forms of program outreach and follow-through, even when parents have good intentions and when such resources are publicly available at minimal financial cost. Using insights from behavioral economics, beELL tests the extent to which re-directing limited attention and providing positive affirmations of motherhood within the context of a newborn home visiting program can increase uptake and use of early language and literacy parenting resources as well as subsequent parent-infant interactions. Read more about this and related projects focused on the application of behavioral insights to early interventions to support parents’ engagement and children’s developmental outcomes at beELL.


Suggested Reading on BE & Early Childhood Initiatives

Revisiting Recent Findings on BE & Poverty

In the March report of Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project sponsored by OPRE and conducted by MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science:

“[R]eceiving an additional behavioral message increased the percentage of program group members who engaged… [But] the analysis does not provide clear evidence that the loss message was more effective than the gain message”. See Figure ES.1. [Read the full report:].

The report implied that any additional reminder promoted program engagement, but they did not produce statistically detectable differences among the three types of behavioral economics infused reminders.

A similar finding arose in the context of promoting child support payments, in that “both the mailed and text message payment reminders increased the percentage of noncustodial parents who made a payment by a statistically significant amount… The differences … between those sent text messages and those sent a mailed reminder were not statistically significant, which suggests that neither intervention was more effective than the other.” [Read the full report:].

These mixed results on behaviorally informed reminders are one example of the lens we can begin to bring toward unpacking more nuanced differences in poverty’s circumstances and responsiveness to behavioral design.