Nudging social tenants: effects, ethics and evaluation of behavioural insights

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences


This project addresses an urgent need identified by political geographers for research which examines in detail the effects, ethics and evaluation strategies of behavioural public policy (BPP). The specific aim of the project is to empirically demonstrate the impact of behavioural public policy in social housing by undertaking a comparative study of the UK and the Netherlands, including Difficult Language Training and Overseas Fieldwork. The project outlines how the 'problem' of social housing, affordability, tenant behaviour is framed in different contexts, and in light of wider European welfare discourses of responsibilisation and financialisation. It examines what methods of evaluation and evidence bases are being used to assess the impact of behavioural change interventions, and will collect new qualitative data on the experiences of social housing tenants involved in behavioural experiments by, for example, undertaking a survey and conducting semi-structured interviews. The research asks whether BPP has uneven effects on already disadvantaged social groups who are often the target of such interventions, despite the purportedly universal nature of cognitive 'failures'.

The overseas fieldwork will include:
- Semi-structured interviews with housing policy workers, behavioural insights workers, consultants, housing practitioners and tenants.
- Q-method survey of the above participant profile.
- Observation and participation of BPP work in action at case study sites.
- It is estimated this will take 4-6 months.
- Dutch language training will be undertaken intensively for four weeks in October 2019 covering the essentials of basic grammar, providing a structural framework to facilitate ongoing self-instruction and document translation. It is used to identify and interrogate concepts unique to the Dutch and it intended part of the semi-structured interviews and Q-sorts will be conducted in Dutch. First generation immigrants and older Dutch tend not to be fluent in English.

The research will be attached to the Embodied Geographies research group in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM) in the School of Social Policy.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2058647 Studentship ES/P000711/1 01/10/2018 16/04/2022 Hannah Bailey