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Boosting Civic Behaviors: Experimental Evidence From a Lebanese Recycling Program

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As the climate crisis grows more urgent, so does the question of how we can encourage citizens to mitigate it. We partner with a municipal government and NGO in Lebanon to evaluate a program that tracks and inspects citizens’ waste and then sends personalized feedback on how they can improve sorting quality. Two months after the intervention, the program improved sorting quality by an average of 0.3 out of 5 stars (14%) overall and 1.1 stars (42%) among those who complied with the program. Treated households were also over three times as likely to sign up for a raffle for ‘green’ prizes four months later (5.4% vs. 1.6%) — demonstrating an impact on other environmentally-conscious behaviors. However, positive effects disappear after the program ends. We find null results on sorting quality at the 12-month mark for all but a select few households who continue complying with the program even after inspections stop. We also observe negative treatment effects on the likelihood of volunteering for other environmental initiatives, indicating fatigue. The results suggest that information combined with monitoring can boost civic behaviors — but that continuous monitoring is likely needed to unlock durable results.


Salma Mousa is a scholar of social cohesion — typically using field experiments and partnerships with local governments and NGOs to explore the question of how to build it in the Middle East and beyond. Currently an Assistant Professor at UCLA's political science department, her research has been published in Science and covered by The EconomistBBCDer Spiegel, the Times of London, and PBS NOVA. Salma received her PhD from Stanford University's political science department in 2020 and was previously an Assistant Professor of political science at Yale University.

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