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Maxwell X Lab

Project Report

Hennepin County, MN SNAP

July 2020

Project Description

  • Partners: University of Minnesota, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hennepin County Human Service and Public Health Department
  • Intervention: Auto-dialer and text-message reminders
  • Method: RCT
  • Outcomes: Text message reminders improve recertification

Project Report

From January 2019-February 2020, the Maxwell X Lab partnered with the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to test behavioral interventions designed to increase the likelihood that SNAP recipients recertify on-time in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Improving the recertification of clients would reduce administrative costs created when households unnecessarily exit and enter SNAP within a four-month period. We tested a three-armed study comparing the efficacy of an auto-dialer communication, a behaviorally-informed text message, and both used together, compared to a control group that did not receive any reminder at the beginning of the recertification month but did receive other standard written communication.

The messages used reciprocity, defined as engaging a positive response to a friendly behavior even when no material gains are expected, and loss aversion, the notion that people tend to dislike losses much more than they like gains. To play on the reciprocity principle, the auto-dialer message said, “We recently mailed you renewal forms,” and the text message said, “We will text reminders about your benefits.” To play on the loss aversion principle, the auto-dialer message said, “Most people mail or bring in their completed forms and supporting documents as soon as possible to keep their benefits,” and the test message said, “We want you to keep your food benefits.”

The results of this trial showed that the auto-dialer was not an effective reminder. However, the text messages were effective in improving recertification rates around five percent over no additional messages and around two percentage points over the original Hennepin County auto-dialer message. The text messaging was particularly effective for SNAP recipients under the age of 60 with low to moderate levels of education.

Maxwell X Lab
426 Eggers Hall