Date of Submission
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)
© 2020 Melanie L Wolfe
Since Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published Nudge in 2008, policy makers and behavioral economists have applied their theory of behavioral interventions in offices called nudge units across the world. In the U.S., three models of operating nudge units have emerged in cities, and their work helps generate revenue and improve the welfare of citizens. However, the limited media attention and academic analysis dedicated to municipal nudge units has left many unresolved questions about the ethical implications and empirical challenges associated with government-sponsored behavioral interventions. Analyzing the behavioral design teams in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia reveals a lack of government oversight and citizen engagement that could jeopardize the reputation of nudge units moving forward. Particularly as nudges themselves become more complex with the introduction of big data and machine learning methods, it is essential for cities with nudge units to create a more inclusive dialogue about how to design nudges that do not undermine individual autonomy or privacy rights.
Wolfe, Melanie, "Investigating the Municipal Nudge Unit: How Behavioral Interventions Have Quietly Emerged and Made their Mark on American Cities" (2020). CMC Senior Theses. 2408.