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Maxwell X Lab

Project Report

St. Paul, Minnesota Garbage Fees

August 2019

Project Description

  • Partners: Office of Financial Services in Saint Paul, MN, support from the Mayor’s Office and the City’s Innovation team
  • Intervention: Modified notices, and modified notices plus envelope handwriting
  • Method: RCT
  • Outcomes: Increased payments

Project Report

In May-June 2019, the Maxwell X Lab partnered with the Office of Financial Services in Saint Paul, Minnesota—with the support of the Mayor’s Office and the City’s Innovation team—to improve garbage fee collections on overdue accounts.

We tested whether a modified notice and modified notice plus envelope handwriting would improve payments. The new notice included a clear call to action at the top of the notice “please pay your garbage bill today,” and displayed information in clear sections. On half of the modified notices, the envelope included a handwritten note to enhance the effects of the notice.

We randomized the nearly 8,000 accounts who had yet to pay their 2019 Quarter 1 garbage bill to receive either the business-as-usual Office of Financial Services notice or the modified notices. The new notice plus handwriting increased payment amounts by 21 percent compared to the business-as-usual average. There was no meaningful change in payments that received the new notice without handwriting.

Maxwell X Lab
426 Eggers Hall