Nudge Studies in Action

Man looking for directions on his phone

Here are just a few examples of how MITRE's Nudge Lab is moving the world in the right direction—one small decision at a time.

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue

The Challenge: Increasing Voluntary Taxpayer Compliance
Finding cost-effective ways to increase voluntary taxpayer compliance is an important priority for the IRS and state tax administrators. Small increases in voluntary compliance can translate into millions of dollars in revenue.

The Nudge. To increase compliance, the MITRE Nudge Team created a new, second delinquency reminder notice specifically for businesses. The notice highlights the actions businesses need to take to reach compliance, consequences if they do not act, and steps to take next. The letter conveys urgency by adding an “ACT NOW!” stamp. Some recipients will also receive handwritten notes on the envelope, which can increase the likelihood that respondents open the letter.

The Impact. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is currently conducting a field experiment to test this nudge. Increasing compliance rates by even a small amount can translate to millions of dollars gained for Pennsylvania. (In progress.)

Boston Children’s Hospital

The Challenge: Reducing Delayed Hospital Discharge Without Affecting Health Outcomes
As a busy urban research and teaching hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital is urgently seeking ways to accommodate patients more efficiently. Among the issues is the longstanding problem of delayed patient discharges. They increase hospital costs and limit new patients’ access to beds.

The Nudge. The MITRE Nudge Team is working with Boston Children's staff to reduce delayed patient discharge in the neuroscience and oncology departments. Patient and caregiver decisions and actions play a noticeable part in patient discharge speed. MITRE identified key parental decision points that can affect the time it takes for a child to be discharged. We developed a poster to guide parents through a complicated set of actions required before children can head home. The poster will be displayed prominently in patients’ hospital rooms for the duration of their stay.

The Impact. Boston Children's will conduct a field experiment to test the impact of this nudge. Empowering the patient and caregiver to prepare for discharge in advance may lead to quicker patient discharges. That would in turn reduce patient costs and open beds for new patients. (In progress.)

U.S. Census Bureau

The Challenge: Boost Response Rate for Two Key Surveys
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts more than 130 surveys each year and faces the challenge of declining public participation. High response rates are key to obtaining accurate data. Repeated attempts to reach respondents are extremely costly, especially for in-person surveys.

The Nudge. The MITRE Nudge Team is partnering with the Census Bureau to boost survey response rates for two surveys—the 2019 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2019 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). For the NHIS survey, MITRE redesigned the notice letter to increase clarity, attention, ease of understanding, and awareness of recipient actions. For the NSCH survey, MITRE redesigned the envelope, making use of past research insights, to increase ease of understanding, attention, and clarity.

The Impact. The goal of these nudges is to increase the rate at which recipients open envelopes and respond to the surveys. By providing the Census Bureau with more accurate data, the government can make more informed policy decisions, including allocating government resources to target populations. Improved response rates will also reduce costs of survey administration. (In progress.)

Pennsylvania Lottery

The Challenge: Reducing Supply Chain Waste
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue sought to eliminate waste in the PA Lottery supply chain. MITRE partnered with the PA Department of Revenue and discovered that lottery retailers freely chose the number of ticket packs to order; oftentimes retailers would order too many scratch-off tickets. This resulted in a significant amount of waste from overproduction, returns, and destruction of lottery scratch-off tickets.

The Nudge. Working with the Pennsylvania Lottery and its partner, Scientific Games, MITRE identified a nudge: reduce the pack size of $1 scratch-off games, from 300 to 100 tickets per pack. Providing a smaller pack size allowed retailers more precision in their orders and the potential to minimize ticket returns, while preserving retailers' freedom to choose the amount to order.

The Impact. Currently, the PA Lottery is collecting data on the impact of this change. If the field experiment verifies a significant reduction in ticket returns, similar nudges could be applied across the PA Lottery game line-up, ultimately reducing costs significantly for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.(In progress.)

A Major American Automotive Company

The Challenge: Getting Car Owners to Respond to Safety Recalls
The number of vehicles affected by safety defect recalls increased sharply in recent years—from nearly 13 million in 2011 to more than 51 million in 2016. While the automotive manufacturers want to improve vehicle safety recall completion rates, they can't force car owners to repair their vehicles. Recalls are voluntary and depend on the owner’s decisions to comply with the recall.

The Nudge. The MITRE team is partnering with a large American automotive manufacturer to improve compliance rates. The plan is to understand motivations and impediments related to recall and design nudges to increase the likelihood that automobile owners will get their vehicle serviced. (In progress)

The Impact. The goal of the nudges will be to increase compliance rates. The impact of doing so will increase the safety of vehicles, which can lead to the following benefits: fewer accidents, lower insurance costs, and saved lives. (In progress.)

Learn more about MITRE's Nudge Lab.