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Automatic Enrollment in College Helps Fight Inequality
Mayor Cabaldon’s initiative builds on one of the most important findings in behavioral science: If you ask people whether they want to opt into something, you will get much lower participation rates than if you enroll them automatically, and ask them whether they want to opt out.
That’s true for retirement programs. Automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans dramatically increases participation rates. It’s true for green energy. Automatic enrollment in options for the delivery of electricity that rely on solar or wind substantially decreases use of fossil fuels — even if consumers are free to switch to fossil fuels if that’s what they want.
It’s true for programs designed to give free school meals to children. The best way to increase participation rates is simply to admit eligible kids, without asking them to apply at all. It’s even true for paper use. Automatic double-sided printing saves a lot of paper, and it works much better than moral appeals.
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