Paying people to be vaccinated could backfire

By George Loewenstein and Cynthia Cryder, in the New York Times:

Two prominent economists, N. Gregory Mankiw and Robert Litan, and the politicians John Delaney and Andrew Yang have proposed or supported paying Americans to receive the vaccine. At first glance, this seems like a reasonable idea; economics teaches us that people respond to incentives. But behavioral research suggests this strategy could backfire.

Humans don’t respond to incentives like rats pressing levers for food; they try to interpret what being offered payment means. In this case, the offer risks implying that the vaccine is not a thing of value.


A more promising approach might be to make desired activities, such as travel, contingent on vaccination. […] If a vaccination becomes associated with enjoyable outcomes, such as travel and access to large public events, vaccination itself will become positively valued. When people perceive the various benefits of vaccination, skepticism is likely to evaporate, at least for some.