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DPE Tuesday Talk Series: Joshua Tasoff, “Eating To Save The Planet: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Using Individual-Level Food Purchase Data”

The Division of Politics and Economics invites the CGU community to attend this week’s Tuesday Lunch Talk featuring, Joshua Tasoff, associate professor in the Department of Economic Sciences at Claremont Graduate University. Lunch will be provided.

Joshua Tasoff

Joshua Tasoff has developed economic theory and run experiments that have caused the federal government to change how it communicates about retirement savings. Tasoff is a behavioral economist who takes insights from psychology and integrates them into economic analysis. His research spans three broad areas: financial mistakes, anticipatory utility and intrinsic information preferences, and the economics of microbial communities. Tasoff received his BS in Economics from MIT before earning his doctorate in Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Talk Title: Eating To Save The Planet: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial Using Individual-Level Food Purchase Data

Meat consumption is a major driver of climate change. Interventions that reduce meat consumption may improve public health and promote environmental sustainability. Tasoff and his research team conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of an awareness-raising intervention on meat consumption using individual-level food purchase data. They randomized undergraduate classes into treatment and control groups. Treatment groups received a 50-minute lecture about how food choices affect climate change, along with information about the health benefits of reduced meat consumption. Control classrooms received a lecture on a placebo topic. Tasoff and his team analyzed 49,301 students’ meal purchases in the college dining halls before and after the intervention. They merged food purchase data with survey data collected during the intervention to study effects by gender and race and to disentangle the mechanisms behind the treatment effects. Participants in the treatment group reduced their purchases of meat and increased their purchases of plant-based alternatives after the intervention. The probability of purchasing a meat-based meal fell by 4.6 percentage points (p<0.01), whereas the probability of purchasing a plant-based meal increased by 4.2 percentage points (p=0.04). While the effects were stronger during the semester of the intervention, dietary shifts persisted and remained statistically significant through the full academic year. Their study provides evidence that an intervention based on informing consumers and encouraging voluntary shifts can effectively reduce the demand for meat. Their findings help to inform the international food policy debate on how to counter rising global levels of meat consumption to achieve climate change goals. To their knowledge, this study is the first to assess the effectiveness of an intervention designed to reduce meat consumption using such high-quality data.