Nudging the Poor and the Rich – A Field Study on the Distributional Effects of Green Electricity Defaults

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Choice defaults are an increasingly popular public policy tool. Yet there is little knowledge of the distributional consequences of such nudges for different groups in society. We report results from a field study in the residential electricity market in which we contrast consumers’ contract choices under an existing default regime with active choices without any default. We find that the default is successful at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but it leads poorer households to pay more for their electricity consumption than they would want to, while leaving a significant willingness to pay for green electricity by richer households untapped.