Understanding motivations in the workplace remains of utmost import as economies around the world rely on increases in labor productivity to foster sustainable economic growth. This study makes use of a unique opportunity to “look under the hood” of an organization that critically relies on worker effort and performance. By partnering with Virgin Atlantic Airways on a field experiment that includes over 40,000 unique lights covering an eight-month period, we explore how information and incentives affect captains’ performance. Making use of more than 110,000 captain-level observations, we find that our set of treatments—which include performance information, personal targets, and prosocial incentives—induces captains to improve efficiency in all three key flight areas: pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight. We estimate that our treatments saved between 266,000-704,000 kg of fuel for the airline over the eight-month experimental period. These savings led to between 838,000-2.22 million kg of CO2 abated at a marginal abatement cost of negative $250 per ton of CO2 (i.e. a $250 savings per ton abated) over the eight-month experimental period. Methodologically, our approach highlights the potential usefulness of moving beyond an experimental design that focuses on short-run substitution effects, and it also suggests a new way to combat firm-level externalities: target workers rather than the firm as a whole.

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BFI Working Paper Aug 19, 2020

The $100 Million Nudge: Increasing Tax Compliance of Businesses and the Self-Employed using a Natural Field Experiment

Justin E. Holz, John List, Alejandro Zentner, Marvin Cardoza, Joaquin Zentner
Topics:  Fiscal Studies
BFI Working Paper Dec 14, 2020

The Value of Time in the United States: Estimates from Nationwide Natural Field Experiments

Ariel Goldszmidt, John List, Robert D. Metcalfe, Ian Muir, V. Kerry Smith, Jenny Wang
BFI Working Paper Oct 16, 2020

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Christopher S. Cotton, Brent R. Hickman, John List, Joseph Price, Sutanuka Roy
Topics:  Early Childhood Education, K-12 Education