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Home Publications Cash by any other name? Evidence on labelling from the UK Winter Fuel Payment

Cash by any other name? Evidence on labelling from the UK Winter Fuel Payment

IFS Working Paper W11/10

Standard economic theory implies that the labelling of cash transfers or cash-equivalents (e.g. child benefits, food stamps) should have no effect on spending patterns. The empirical literature to date does not contradict this proposition. We study the UK Winter Fuel Payment (WFP), a cash transfer to older households. Exploiting sharp eligibility criteria in a regression discontinuity design, we find robust evidence of a behavioural effect of the labelling. On average households spend 41% of the WFP on fuel. If the payment was treated as cash, we would expect households to spend approximately 3% of the payment on fuel.

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There is growing interest in how behavioural economics can be used effectively by policymakers. This observation considers some of the broad implications of behavioural insights for tax and benefit policy, drawing on new IFS research which explores the issues for particular aspects of policy in ...
Press release
Households receiving the winter fuel payment are almost 14 times as likely to spend the money on fuel than would have been the case had their incomes been increased in other ways; But in very cold weather it remains the case that the poorest pensioners cut back on spending on food to finance the ...