Does reducing stigma increase participation in benefit programs? Research suggests so.

1 min read

More people applied for rental assistance when sent de-stigmatizing messages in a study coauthored by a Harvard Kennedy School faculty member.

Elizabeth Linos, the Emma Bloomberg Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management and faculty director of The People Lab, and Jessica Lasky-Fink, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, and research director at The People Lab, tested the role of stigma as a barrier to participation in social safety programs.

In a recent HKS faculty working paper, they find that “subtle changes to the framing of rental assistance — one highly stigmatized benefit — increased interest in the program by 36 percent compared to providing information only and increased completed program applications by about 11 percent, with potentially larger effects for renters of color.”