STAR Lab Research Projects

Carbon Footprint

Harvard STAR Lab is conducting research to test ways to help people take action to reduce their carbon emissions and address climate change. Taking action of this sort can be challenging as it typically requires expending effort and money in the present (e.g., picking an alternative supplier of home energy, renovating your home to make it more energy-efficient) but the benefits only arrive in the uncertain future. The projects include field experiments to test ways to help people choose carbon-neutral products and services, make home renovations that reduce their energy use and their carbon emissions, and purchase carbon offsets for emissions associated with travel. Current projects include:

  • Who Offsets when they Fly? (Jens Hainmueller and Michael Hiscox)
  • A Nudge for Home Energy Audits (Michael Hiscox)
  • Simplifying Choices to Encourage Energy-Saving Home Renovations (Michael Hiscox)
  • Peer Effects and Rooftop Solar Installation (Michael Hiscox)
  • A Personal Carbon Footprint Rating (Michael Hiscox)
  • Making it Easy to Switch to Renewable Energy and Carbon-Neutral Banking (Michael Hiscox)
  • Pilots, Fuel Loads, and Carbon Emissions (Michael Hiscox)

Consumers and Sustainability

Current Harvard STAR Lab projects include survey and field experiments aimed to assess consumer responses to company efforts to address pressing social and environmental issues related to business activities, including improvements in supply chain standards. The tests evaluate new marketing messages and communications designed to empower consumers to make better-informed decisions that help achieve social and environmental outcomes. Current projects include:

  • Consumer Demand for Fair Trade (Jens Hainmueller, Michael Hiscox, and Sandra Sequeira) 
  • Buying Green Products (Jens Hainmueller and Michael Hiscox)
  • Motivations Among Ethical Consumers (Rebecca Goldstein and Michael Hiscox)
  • Customer Responses to Sustainability Programs (Ari Berman and Michael Hiscox)
  • Communicating to Consumers about Living Wages (Ryan Buell)
  • Customer Rewards and Carbon Offsets (Michael Hiscox)

Financial Wellbeing

Current Harvard STAR Lab projects include field experiments designed to test new approaches to helping individuals, especially those on low incomes and at risk of financial hardship, to make better financial decisions, access support, and improve their financial wellbeing. The projects are based on insights from the field of behavioral finance indicating that people often have difficulty aligning their intentions with their actions when it comes to saving, spending, managing debt, budgeting, and choosing between financial products. Projects are testing interventions designed to help people by simplifying complex choices, providing regular feedback and reminders, facilitating commitments to saving for the future, and improving choices about loans. Current projects include:

  • A Salience Prime for High Interest Rates in Credit Card Offers (Ryan Buell)
  • Simplifying Access to Unclaimed Government Benefits (Olivia Bergman and Michael Hiscox)
  • Aligning the Timing of Mortgage Payments and Pay Checks (John Beshears)
  • Impacts of High-Risk Personal Loans (Will Dobbie and Jess Min)
  • Categorizing Credit Card Spending and Repayments (Grant Donnelly and Michael Norton)
  • Nudging for Larger Credit Card Repayments (Michael Hiscox and Jess Min)
  • Budgeting, Goal-Setting, and Financial Wellbeing (Neale Mahoney and Abby Sussman)
  • Responsible Lending Algorithms (Ashesh Rambachan and Sendhil Mullainathan)