Improving Take-Up by Reaching Out to Potential Beneficiaries. Insights from a Large-Scale Field Experiment in Belgium

Raf van Gestel, Tim Goedemé*, Julie Janssens, Eva Lefevere, Rik Lemkens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Non-take-up of means-tested benefits is a widespread phenomenon which undermines the effectiveness and fairness of social policies. The digitalisation of the welfare state creates new opportunities for proactively contacting people who are potentially entitled to benefits, but do not take up their social rights. In this study, we report on how new data flows were used to reach out to potential beneficiaries of the Increased Reimbursement of health care, a programme targeted at low-income households in Belgium. By randomizing the period in which potential beneficiaries were contacted, we were able to identify a three- to four-fold increase in take-up among those contacted as a result of the outreaching activities. Households that did not respond to the intervention, the never takers, have lower pre-intervention healthcare expenditures. This suggests that non-take-up was reduced primarily among those who would expect to benefit most from receiving the Increased Reimbursement. Exploiting the combination of rich administrative data with experimental evidence, we also find that early responders are mostly older and have higher historic health expenditures than late responders. Furthermore, results point to the need for balancing well the inclusiveness of the intervention with an increased number of applications by ineligible people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-760
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Hervé Avalosse, Werner Cremer, Tom De Spiegeleer and Bram Peters for extensive data expertise and background information. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers, Koen Decancq, Bruno De Borger, Diana De Graeve, Guido Erreygers, Marieke Huysentruyt, Owen O’Donnell, Erik Schokkaert, Erik Schut, Carine Vande Voorde, Tom Van Ourti and Edwin Wouters for comments on previous versions of this paper. We also thank the participants of the TAKE project and follow-up committee. Further, we thank seminar attendants at the INET Researcher Seminar at the University of Oxford, the Lowlands Health Economics Study Group, the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and the Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy in Antwerp for useful comments and suggestions. This project benefited from financial support from Belgian Federal Science Policy (TAKE project – Contract BR/154/A4/TAKE) and the National Bank of Belgium (UA/ADOC/LVP/15-065). Tim Goedemé acknowledges financial support by Citi through the Oxford Martin Programme on Inequality and Prosperity. The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are strictly those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press


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