Can social comparisons and moral appeals increase public transport ridership and decrease car use?

Gessner, Johannes ; Habla, Wolfgang ; Wagner, Ulrich J.

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-643121
Document Type: Working paper
Year of publication: 2023
The title of a journal, publication series: ZEW Discussion Papers
Volume: 23-003
Place of publication: Mannheim
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Law and Economics > Sonstige - Fakultät für Rechtswissenschaft und Volkswirtschaftslehre
Außerfakultäre Einrichtungen > Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences - CDSE (Economics)
School of Law and Economics > Umweltökonomik, Industrieökonomik, Finanzwissenschaft (Wagner 2015-)
Sonstige Einrichtungen > ZEW - Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung
MADOC publication series: Veröffentlichungen des ZEW (Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung) > ZEW Discussion Papers
Subject: 330 Economics
Classification: JEL: C93 , D04 , D91 , L91,
Keywords (English): mobility behavior , randomized experiment , nudging , descriptive norm , injunctive norm , social norms , moral appeal , habit formation
Abstract: In a field experiment with 341 participants, we study whether social comparisons, either in isolation or in combination with a climate-related moral appeal, can change the use of public and car-related transportation. We do so in the context of a mobility budget offered to employees of a large German company as an alternative to a company car. The budget can be used to pay for both leisure and commuting trips, and for various modes of transport. Behavioral interventions in this setting are of particular interest, since companies are constrained to significantly alter financial benefits to employees yet strive to lower carbon emissions via a shift to low-emission transport modes. We find strong evidence for a reduction in car-related mobility in response to the combined treatment, driven by reduced expenditures for taxi and UBER rides. This is accompanied by substitution towards micromobility, but not towards public transport. Furthermore, we do not find any effects of the social comparison alone. Our results demonstrate that norm-based nudges are able to change transportation behavior, at least temporarily.

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