Scroll to Section:

By means of a field experiment, the research presented in this video tested the effects of financial incentives on the dieting behavior of obese people. As CHRISTOPH M. SCHMIDT explains, patients leaving rehabilitation clinics have been selected for the study and were given different treatments to help them achieve their target weight. It shows that those patients who received a financial incentive were more successful in sustaining healthy behavior in the short term, with the effect weakening over time. These insights contribute to the question of the role financial incentives can play in encouraging healthy behavior.


Christoph M. Schmidt is the Director of the RWI Essen and chair of the German Council of Economic Experts. Since 2013 he has been the chair of the board of trustees of the Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance, Munich.

Schmidt has been highly influential in the field of applied economics and economic policy, particularly concerning the topic of health within these fields. In his current research, Schmidt investigates the effects of financial incentives on tackling obesity and reaching target weights.


RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research

RWI - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research (formerly Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung) is a leading centre for economic research and evidence-based policy advice in Germany. Through its research work, RWI provides information on economic developments and their underlying catalysts, assists economic policy decision-making and fosters economic literacy among the wider public. The research work of RWI – based on latest theoretical concepts and advanced empirical methods – ranges from the individual to the world economy and is structured along four “competence areas”:  “Labor Markets, Education, Population”, “Health Economics”, “Environment and Resources” and “Macroeconomics and Public Finance”. The Institute’s claim “research with impact” illustrates its high scientific demand and is to be understood in a threefold sense: virtually all projects at RWI are of practical relevance and, thus, possess a high degree of potential policy impact. Second, the applied research at RWI fulfills highest academic standards and results are regularly published in renowned academic journals (i.e. with a high “impact factor”). Third, “impact evaluation” is a trans-divisional core competency of RWI and, therefore, often the central challenge in a large number of studies, evaluations and policy projects. (Source: RWI)
Show more

Original publication

Small Cash Rewards for Big Losers – Experimental Insights Into the Fight Against the Obesity Epidemic

Bauer Thomas K., Schmidt Christoph M., Augurzky Boris, Reichert Arndt R. and Tauchmann Harald
Ruhr Economic Papers
Published in 2014

Reading recommendations

The Causal Link Between Financial Incentives and Weight Loss: An Evidence-Based Survey of the Literature

Paloyo Alfredo R., Reichert Arndt R., Reinermann Holger and Tauchmann Harald
Journal of Economic Surveys
Published in 2014

When and Why Incentives (Don't) Work to Modify Behavior

Meier Stephan, Gneezy Uri and Rey-Biel Pedro
The Journal of Economic Perspectives
Published in 2011

Does Health Insurance Make You Fat?

Jay Bhattacharya, M. Kate Bundorf, Noemi Pace and Neeraj Sood
Economic Aspects of Obesity
Published in 2011

Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat

Sassi Franco
Published in 2010

Incentives to Exercise

Gneezy Uri and Charness Gary
Published in 2009
Show more