Behavioural Economics

SRDC recognized early on that cognitive and behavioural factors can affect important outcomes like getting a job or a good education. Since 2001, SRDC has conducted several economic experiments that created controlled settings to study program participants' preferences and behaviour. We have applied this approach in several areas, including adult education, the use of labour market information, and student financial aid.

Current and Completed Projects:

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Connecting Arabic-speaking Refugees to Employers (C.A.R.E.) in the Hospitality Sector Project

This pilot in Surrey, British Columbia is using the behavioural economics concept of “nudging” in order to understand the behaviours and choices of small business employers in the hospitality sector towards recruiting and hiring Privately Sponsored and Government Assisted refugees.

Start-end date: September 2017 - March 2018
Sponsor: S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

Phased approach for Options for a rigorous test for an online micro-grant

This project is for the development of a pilot test for an online micro-granting tool as a means of funding, in a more direct and streamlined fashion, youth-led projects aligned with public policy objectives. While the pilot will be designed in the specific context of Canadian Heritage's goals of enhancing youth engagement and diversity, evidence on the feasibility and effectiveness of the tool as a crowdsourcing platform will have pan-governmental benefits, and support further innovation in Grants and Contributions across all federal departments. The key output of the project will be a design report for a “choice” experiment that will help refine the micro granting model as well as an evaluation and implementation strategy for a full pilot.

Start-end date: March 2017 - March 2018
Sponsor: Canadian Heritage

Life After High School Ontario – Phase III

The purpose of Life After High School is to improve the rates at which high school students transition to post-secondary education by reducing the non-financial and financial barriers students face. The program applies lessons from behavioural economics to provide all Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. Students are guided through online tools and video in the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program without incurring a fee, and applying for financial aid. As options are considered for the delivery of a streamlined Life After High School program in Ontario in future years, SRDC is running the program in 69 low-transition schools in 2016-17.

Start-end date: September 2016 - June 2017
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

The long-term impacts of offering enhanced career education to Manitoba high school students

This project extends analysis of the impacts of offering Future to Discover (FTD) enhanced career education on Manitoba high school students. While FTD reports to date have covered the 2005 to 2010 period for Manitoba, this extension permits analysis of impacts on later education and labour market participation through to the end of 2014 when the participants were in their mid-twenties. The study examines impacts on education and earnings using tax records that capture outcomes for all 1,044 participants regardless of whether the participants still reside in Manitoba.

Start-end date: February 2016 - October 2017
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Education and Training

Long-term Education and Labour Market Impacts from the Future to Discover Project

Postsecondary access has been the dominant priority in Ontario’s higher education policy over the past three decades. With this project, SRDC is undertaking data collection and analysis to help answer critical questions about the impacts of postsecondary access policies. The study provides answers to the question "When students at the margin of participating in postsecondary education actually go, what happens to them?". This study uses data on 5,400 students from SRDC’s Future to Discover Project and links these to tax records.

Start-end date: January 2016 - September 2017
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The role of financial literacy on financial decisions and retirement preparedness among seniors and older adults

Recent evidence suggests that many seniors and older adults may struggle to manage their finances. On assessments of financial capability, Canadian seniors and older adults fared poorly on objective measures of financial knowledge including those with high self-rated skills. These gaps may have serious consequences for financial decision-making, particularly among those heading into retirement. This project analyzes the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS) to understand the challenges that Canadian seniors and older adults face with financial literacy, how these relate to financial outcomes, and retirement preparedness.

Start-end date: September 2015 - March 2016
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

The role of subjective attitudes and beliefs in financial decision-making of Canadians

While many Canadians lack basic financial literacy, mounting evidence from behavioural economics suggests that financial decisions are also frequently undermined by psychological factors. Even with the requisite financial knowledge and literacy skills, people are prone to various kinds of cognitive biases when making financial decisions such as those related to evaluating risk and uncertainty or the time value of money. This project undertakes an analysis of the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS) with the aim of understanding the role of cognitive biases in the financial decision-making of Canadians, with a particular focus on youth, aboriginals, and those with low incomes.

Start-end date: September 2015 - March 2016
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Measuring Resilience as an Education Outcome

SRDC is investigating the most appropriate means for Ontario postsecondary institutions to assess the impacts of their programs on student resilience. In addition to an extensive literature review, the study assesses how well one of the most promising existing measures of resilience (the Brief Resilience Scale) predicts student coping behaviours over a three-year period post-measurement. The project report includes the combined results and recommendations for next steps based on lessons learned from the literature and from implementing resilience measures in the field.

Start-end date: May 2015 - April 2016
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Integrating Motivational Interviewing within Employment Services for BC Employment and Income Assistance Recipients

This project implements and tests an intervention that uses an innovative approach to engage and motivate income assistance (IA) clients using employment services in British Columbia to improve their work readiness and participation in the labour market. The project includes a rigorous evaluation of the proposed intervention randomizing both participants and case managers to the treatment, so that clear lessons for policy and practice can be learned and disseminated. This project is managed by the BC Centre for Employment Excellence, a division of SRDC.

Start-end date: April 2015 - March 2017
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

How youth develop career decisions

Making use of existing literature from Canada and abroad, this study examines when, where and how youth use labour market information to make postsecondary education and career-related decisions, including recommendations for the development and refinement of labour market information tools and initiatives. The report includes design considerations, critical features and strategies including those to adopt and those to avoid.

Start-end date: February 2015 - March 2015
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Long-term impacts of the Life After High School program in BC

This project extends analysis from SRDC’s previous study of the Impact of Lowering Non-financial Barriers on Access to Post-secondary Education (Life After High School) in British Columbia. The intervention tested a sequence of three workshops delivered to high schools’ Grade 12 students intended to encourage the students to apply for post-secondary education and related student financial aid. A total of 50 BC high schools with low rates of students entering post-secondary education are involved. Impacts on students’ enrolment and persistence in post-secondary education, use of student financial aid and program choices are investigated across key subgroups defined by Aboriginal status, gender and high school achievement.

Start-end date: January 2015 - January 2016
Sponsor: Max Bell Foundation

Motivational Interviewing for Manitoba Employment Income Assistance recipients

The project aims to determine the effectiveness of an innovative approach to employment counselling – called Motivational Interviewing – to help Employment Income Assistance (EIA) recipients in Manitoba progress along the Government of Manitoba’s employment service continuum. The study assesses the extent to which the approach: helps participants move forward along the stages of change; improves participants’ readiness for employment; helps participants obtain employment, particularly stable employment; and reduces the receipt of income assistance benefits and recidivism. The study also investigates participants’ experience with the program to learn about what worked well and what did not.

Start date: November 2013
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Jobs and the Economy

Evaluation of the Healthy Eating After School project

Healthy Eating After School (HEAS) is a pilot project funded by the Ministry of Health and implemented by the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. SRDC was contracted to conduct the evaluation. The purpose of the project is to create an environment that supports healthy eating in the after-school care setting. The objectives of the project are to: 1) improve the knowledge and confidence of after-school care staff in healthy eating and in food skills and their confidence to implement these; 2) develop and implement healthy eating policies/guidelines for an after-school care setting; 3) engage parents of children in after school care, in implementing and maintaining children’s healthy eating behaviours; and 4) increase the interest and ability in food skills for children attending after-school care programs.

Start-end date: July 2013 - March 2014
Sponsor: YMCA of Greater Vancouver

Life After High School Ontario – Phase II

A pilot project to develop and test streamlined options for delivery of the Life After High School program in Ontario. The program options provide Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. Students are guided through online tools and video in the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program, and applying for financial aid. In the initial stage of the project, SRDC provided consulting services and a set of recommended models for test, including consideration of a variant model for Crown Wards. Following the selection of preferred models, the second stage commenced delivery of the options during the 2013-14 school year. Delivery models vary in order to assess the impact of paying the application fee of either the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) or the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) and different forms of facilitation. This research project seeks to learn which models are most effective in supporting all Grade 12 students at a school to make applications for post-secondary studies and financial aid, and in increasing enrolment in further education.

Start-end date: April 2013 - March 2016
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Evaluation of WellnessFits

The Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division, in partnership with Healthy Families BC Initiative, has developed a comprehensive workplace health promotion program, WellnessFits. The aim of WellnessFits is to help employers and employees address key health behaviours that can reduce an individual’s risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. The program’s three principle strategies of educate, act, and support guide the overall development and delivery of the program. SRDC was commissioned to conduct an initial evaluation of this program.

Start-end date: December 2012 - April 2013
Sponsor: Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon Division

Understanding the impact of numeracy and literacy skills on financial capability

In collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, this SRDC study explores the link between Essential Skills and financial capability as well as the impact of workplace-based Essential Skills training on financial capability. Financial capability is defined as the ability to make informed financial decisions. This research study is part of the broader UPSKILL: Essentials to Excel demonstration project and aims to provide a better understanding of the relation between two domains of financial capability (managing money and planning ahead) with the TOWES essential skills scores (numeracy and document use). The study also explores other links between financial capability and important psycho-social outcomes and job performance indicators.

Start-end date: September 2012 - February 2014
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

The Motivational Interviewing Pilot Project (MIPP): Advancing Career Development Services for Income Assistance Clients

The evaluation of a promising intervention — called Motivational Interviewing (MI) — intended to help British Columbia social assistance recipients overcome any ambivalence that may be keeping them from making desired changes in their lives. The hypothesis under test is that MI will act as a catalyst for change moving from unemployment to employment. Outcomes for income assistance recipients streamed to receive MI are compared to outcomes from a randomly-assigned control group streamed not to receive MI.

Start-end date: May 2012 - March 2014
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Advancing Career Development Services for Income Assistance Clients: A Test of the Stages of Change and Motivational Interviewing Model in a Public Service Setting

To prepare a detailed design document to implement and test a novel and innovative approach to engage and motivate income assistance clients in Saskatchewan to improve their work readiness and participation in the labour market. The intervention builds on the Stages of Change Research Project that implemented a unique approach in the employment development field in Manitoba. The project also involves designing and implementing a rigorous research approach to explore and measure the results of the proposed intervention.

Start-end date: September 2011 - November 2011
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Life After High School in Ontario

A pilot project to test an innovative program called Life After High School in Ontario. Starting in October 2011, the program provides Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. In three on-line facilitated workshops at 43 schools, students are guided through the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program, and applying for financial aid. The application fee of either the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) or the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) is covered by the program. This research project seeks to learn whether supporting all Grade 12 students at a school in making real applications for post-secondary studies and financial aid increases enrolment in further education.

Start-end date: May 2011 - March 2015
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Healthy After School Pilot Project

The aim of this project is to develop a program around physical activity and healthy eating in after-school care. The program will provide after-school care providers with a range of supports and resources to encourage and facilitate children to be more active and to choose healthy foods. After-school care sites participating in the project will be trained and given a resource bin that will include some equipment and tools to help staff incorporate the program into their activities. Ongoing training and support will also be provided to staff and they can choose what to use from these resource bins. Lines of evidence: consultations, interviews, observations, surveys, and measurements of physical activity.

Start-end date: February 2011 - October 2012
Sponsor: Public Health Agency of Canada

Sip Smart! Education Module

A process evaluation of a short-term early prevention school-based education program to inform students in grades 4, 5, and 6 about the risks of sugar-sweetened beverages. The resources were delivered by classroom teachers.

Start-end date: January 2010 - July 2010
Sponsor: BC Pediatric Society

CareerMotion

The evaluation of a demonstration project to provide reliable evidence on whether the labour market competencies of recent graduates from colleges and universities can be improved by providing them with job search and career planning tools that are tailored to their needs.

Start-end date: December 2008 - November 2011
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
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Navigating the Labour Market

A short-term classroom economic experiment to probe the relationship between literacy and labour market knowledge, and to assess the impact of a short labour market information intervention on labour market knowledge.

Start-end date: January 2008 - July 2008
Sponsor: Human Resources and Social Development Canada

Willingness to Pay for Post-secondary Education Among Under-represented Groups

A study to evaluate high-school students’ debt aversion or willingness to incur debt to access post-secondary education. The study focuses in particular on the decision-making process of youth from low SES families, Aboriginal families, and rural sectors, and on first generation students. Participants are tested for numeracy, risk, and time preferences. A sample of 1,400 students in 14 schools across 4 provinces took part in this project.

Start-end date: May 2007 - December 2009
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
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Future to Discover Pilot Project (FTD)

The evaluation of a demonstration project involving 5,400 high-school students in New Brunswick and Manitoba that is testing, through a randomized trial, an alternative form of financial support and enhanced career education as ways to increase youth participation in post-secondary education, especially youth from low-income families. To date, SRDC has published the Future to Discover Pilot Project: Early Implementation Report (2007), Future to Discover: Interim Impacts Report (2009), Future to Discover: Post-secondary Impacts Report (2012), Future to Discover: Fourth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2014), Future to Discover: Fifth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2016), and Future to Discover: Sixth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2016).

Start-end date: August 2003 - December 2013
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
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Fostering Adult Education: The Efficient Use of Loans, Grants, and Savings Incentives

An examination of the barriers to adult education and the relative attractiveness of alternative forms of student financial assistance to encourage investment in education.

Start-end date: April 2002 - December 2004
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada (Applied Research Branch and Canada Student Loans Program)

Potential use of an Economic Experiment to Examine Issues Related to Student Financial Aid

Start-end date: December 2001 - December 2001
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada

Will the Working Poor Invest in Human Capital?

An examination of people’s willingness to delay consumption, to invest in education for themselves or their children, and their reaction to risk.

Start-end date: September 2001 - February 2002
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada

learn$ave: Individual Development Accounts Project

A demonstration project to evaluate, using random assignment, individual development accounts (matched saving accounts and financial literacy training) offered to low-income families to encourage adult learning activities and small business start-up; the project involved a total of some 5,000 low-income families in 10 communities, as well as non-profit organizations to coordinate and carry out service delivery and financial institutions to maintain the accounts.

Start-end date: June 2000 - March 2009
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
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Earnings Supplement Project

A randomized experiment that involved more than 11,000 employment insurance recipients (either repeat EI users or displaced workers) in nine communities that tested the use of financial incentives in the form of temporary “earnings insurance” as a way of hastening re-employment.

Start-end date: July 1996 - March 2004
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada, Applied Research Branch
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