How are Incentives Spent? A Look at Gift Card Purchases Among Low-Income Research Participants

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2017-03-14

Authors

Walters, Scott
Rendon, Alexis

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Objective: Incentives are frequently used to motivate volunteers to participate in research studies. This study examined the kinds of things that low-income study participants purchased with their incentive gift cards. Methods: For participating in a health coaching program, study participants received a $25 or $35 Walmart gift card every 6 months. During follow-up phone assessments, we asked participants what kinds of items they purchased with their most recent gift card. Results: Among 259 respondents, the most commonly reported purchased items were food (30.5%), household items (14.2%), clothing (12.6%), and personal hygiene items (11.9%). Less common items included cigarettes (1.6%), gifts for others (2.6%), pet food (2.6%), and reporting the gift card as unspent (2.6%). Additionally, we found that 73.4% of reported purchased items would have qualified as wellness items that could have been purchased using the study participant’s monthly $60 allowance. Conclusions: Most study participants reported spending their incentive gift cards on items that were congruent with health improvement goals of the health coaching program. This information may be useful in tailoring incentives in a way that helps participants reach their health and wellness goals.

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