The Effect of Images of Michelle Obama’s Face on Trick-or-Treaters’ Dietary Choices: A Randomized Control Trial


Peter M. Aronow, Dean Karlan, and Lauren E. Pinson

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Aronow PM, Karlan D, Pinson LE (2018) The effect of images of Michelle Obama’s face on trick-or-treaters’ dietary choices: A randomized control trial. PLOS ONE 13(1): e0189693.
Objective: To evaluate the microfoundations of a personality-inspired public health campaign’s influence on minors. Design: Multi-year randomized control trial. Setting: Economics professor’s front porch in New Haven, CT. Participants: 1223 trick-or-treaters in New Haven over three years; on average, 8.5 years old and 53% male (among children whose gender was identifiable). Eligibility:Trick-or-treaters over the age of three that approached the house. Intervention: Random assignment to the Michelle Obama side of the porch or the Comparison side of the porch. Main outcome measure: Selection of fruit over candy. Methods: Difference-in-means estimates. Results: We estimate that viewing a photograph of Michelle Obama’s face relative to control conditions caused children to be 19% more likely to choose fruit over candy. Conclusions: Michelle Obama’s initiative to reduce childhood obesity has influenced children’s dietary preferences. Whether this influence extends beyond Halloween trick-or-treating in New Haven, CT on the porch of an economics professor requires further research.
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New Haven, CT
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