The international appeal of behavioural public policy: is nudge an Anglo-American phenomenon?

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Since the publication of Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein (2008) behavioural public policies and nudge units have been widely adopted right across the world, which has resulted in many improvements to the delivery of public policies, such as better tax collection, increased access of young people to education opportunities, and more charitable giving. This paper asks what explains the adoption of nudge units and related initiatives. In particular, are Anglo–American or West European countries the focus for adoption? Are these interventions more likely to appear under left, right, or centre-dominated governments? Ascertaining the origins of nudge can adjudicate the extent to which nudge is partial project, based on the dominance of liberal economies and the preferred programme for centre governments and/or right political ideologies, or whether it has more universal appeal. Using data from OECD and OECD-partner countries, event history models reveal Anglo–American countries to be the drivers, with nudge not favoured by left-controlled governments. Nonetheless, with the interest and level of policy transfer not abating, in future years nudge is likely to appear in a wide variety of contexts, including China.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date22 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2019


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