Creating Interventions That Resonate with the People Being Served
A study in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences finds that, when developing programs and policies to aid low-income families, policymakers need to have “a more nuanced understanding of behavior and choice.” The authors examine how assumptions about low-income people’s decisionmaking can cause policymakers to arrive at incorrect or incomplete solutions that fail to target the problem. The role of assumptions in designing interventions is discussed in three areas: banking, nutrition, and housing. In all areas, considering the realities faced by low-income people, and how these realities are shaped by context will enable more impactful service-delivery. Qualitative research, behavioral mapping exercises, program evaluations to understand how interventions are received, and psychologists can help policymakers develop effective interventions.
- Assumptions that help inform programs for low-income populations are sometimes from a different service delivery context or designed for a different income group and may not be as applicable.
- Researchers and policymakers have focused on improving access to financial savings programs, but evidence shows that the focus should be on facilitating techniques to increase people’s use of the programs to ensure retention.
- Strategies to improve nutrition focus on proximity to places with fresh produce and increasing food subsidy dollars. Behavioral economics shows that the decision to consume fruits and vegetables is encouraged when the subsidy dollars are only offered to purchase those items. Research also finds that recipients may go out of the way to grocery stores with better selections of fresh food.
- Housing vouchers are distributed with the assumption that low-income families will improve their housing quality and stability and move to opportunity-rich neighborhoods. Findings show that even as household income increases, housing voucher holders remain affected by the consequences of long-term residence in poor neighborhoods. Additional supports are needed to influence mobility to better-opportunity areas.