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How Coupons Impact Children’s Healthy Choices in a Developing Economy: An Immediate Boost, a Long-Term Deficit, and a Lesson on Message Design

Abstract

This research examines how coupons—a classic marketing tool—affect children’s healthy choices in a developing economy. We partnered with UNICEF to launch three field experiments at three elementary schools in Panamá among a total of 2,242 children. Three core insights emerged: (1) Discount coupons promoting healthy options effectively increased immediate demand among Panamanian children 6 to 11 years old, replicating previous findings documented in developed economies; (2) different from prior incentive-based healthy eating interventions conducted in developed economies, however, a long-term deficit occurred after the intervention, except when the promoted product was relatively inexpensive compared to other options; (3) coupon messages that required more cognitively demanding processing (i.e., System 2 processing) rather than intuitive processing (i.e., System 1 processing) were more effective among older Panamanian children, whereas the reverse occurred among younger Panamanian children. This research enriches the dialogue on healthy eating interventions and childhood obesity by investigating the unique and understudied context of a developing economy. Furthermore, we advance the extant understanding of the long-term consequences of incentive- based interventions on food choices in the field, offering rich avenues for future research at the intersection of field intervention, children’s healthy eating, message design, and targeting.

Type

Working Paper

Author(s)

Michal Maimaran, Szu-chi Huang, Daniella Kupor

Date Published

2022

Citations

Maimaran, Michal, Szu-chi Huang, and Daniella Kupor. 2022. How Coupons Impact Children’s Healthy Choices in a Developing Economy: An Immediate Boost, a Long-Term Deficit, and a Lesson on Message Design.

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