When the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit in 2021 with direct cash payments of up to $3,600 to alleviate child poverty, millions of the most vulnerable families never received the automatic payments because they didn’t have a digital connection with the Internal Revenue Service through a previous income tax filing online. The burden was on those families to seek out the public benefit.
To boost awareness, the government launched a messaging campaign to let families know that up to $3,600 a year was waiting for them. But months later, millions of dollars were still unclaimed.
A new study led by Wharton marketing professor Wendy De La Rosa pinpoints the reason why so many Americans left money on the table: The large amount seemed like an abstraction because people don’t think about money on a yearly basis. Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that people were more likely to collect the money if it was conveyed as a monthly or weekly amount — $300 or $69 — similar to how they budget.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must learn from the mistakes it made during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic if it wants to win back public trust, according to Wharton health care management professor Ingrid Nembhard.
She thinks CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is on the right path to do just that. Walensky, who was appointed by President Joe Biden in 2021, has announced a major overhaul to modernize the agency and get the public messaging right.
Nembhard is particularly hopeful about Walensky’s focus on changing the culture at the CDC. The infrastructure to conduct the science and disseminate the information is vital, but so is the culture. Reports have surfaced that paint the agency as clunky with a risk-averse culture.
“If you have all of the structures but nobody is speaking up, where are you?” Nembhard said. “You don’t have all the information that you need, and I think that’s been one of the realities that we’ve seen them having to deal with. You really do need to have your systems in place to be flexible, to be able to manage under ever-changing circumstances.”