Search Costs, Outside Options, and On-the-Job Search

Last registered on January 03, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

Search Costs, Outside Options, and On-the-Job Search
Initial registration date
December 17, 2022

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
January 03, 2023, 4:36 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator

University of Naples Federico II

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Why do people stay put and do not seek better jobs? Is it because they think the gains from changing jobs are small or because they believe the costs of looking for a new job are high? What are the main costs and obstacles people face in their job search process? Are search costs especially high for certain groups of workers? In this project I study how search costs and beliefs about outside options affect the job mobility decisions of employed workers. I design and field a new survey in the U.S. to measure directly the costs associated to the job search process (time, money, stress), and elicit employed workers’ beliefs about their opportunities outside of their current job. I correlate beliefs and search costs with respondents’ past, present, and future intended job search behavior. I exogenously shift respondents’ beliefs on outside options and on search costs using two information experiments, and I study the effect of the treatments on job search intention.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Miano, Armando. 2023. "Search Costs, Outside Options, and On-the-Job Search." AEA RCT Registry. January 03.
Experimental Details


I administer an online survey to a sample of wage and salaried workers ages 20 to 64. Respondents are sampled so that the final sample is representative of the US target population in terms of age, gender, income, education, race, and geography (census regions). In the survey, I measure respondents' perceptions of search costs, returns to search effort, and outside options.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Perceptions of search costs, returns to search effort, and outside options; job search intentions, job search effort, intentions to ask for a raise.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
I measure 3 types of search costs: time, money, and stress. To measure time costs, I ask respondents about the number of weeks they expect their job search to last, and about the hours they expect to spend on various phases of their job search. I break the job search process into 3 phases: looking for job openings, preparing and submitting applications, and doing interviews. To measure monetary costs, I ask about the money that respondents expect to spend on their search, giving some concrete examples of possible cost items (for instance, transportation to and from the location of interviews or fees for job board websites). I ask about the level of stress respondents associate with a possible job search on a scale from 1 ("Not stressfull at all") to 7 ("extremely stressful").
Perceived returns to search effort are computed as the ratio of the expected number of job offers over the expected number of job applications.
I measure beliefs about outside options in two ways. I measure respondents’ knowledge of the wage distribution for their occupation--the median wage and their rank in the wage distribution--and I elicit respondents’ beliefs on how much they would gain from changing job, giving themselves 3 months to find a new job.
Job search intentions are measured as the probability respondents will look for a new job in the next 12 months. job search effort is measured as the number jobs respondents applied or will apply to. Intentions to ask for a raise are measured as the probability respondents will ask their current employer for a raise in the next 12 months.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The survey features two information treatments. In the first treatment, a randomly selected group of respondents receive accurate information about the median wage for their occupation at the national level and for the metropolitan or micropolitan area where they live. In the second treatment, another group of respondents receive information about the search costs (weeks, hours, money) experienced by other respondents in the survey who recently made a job-to-job transition and work in the same broad occupation group. The rest of the respondents see no information and serve as the control group for both treatments. I analyze the effect of information on beliefs about outside options and search costs (first stage), and on job search intentions, intentions to ask for a raise, and search effort (second stage). I study the effect of the treatments on the overall sample and allowing for heterogeneity across demographic groups.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Respondents are randomly assigned to control or treatment groups by the survey software (Qualtrics).
Randomization Unit
Individual respondent.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1 country (US)
Sample size: planned number of observations
3,000 respondents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,200 control, 1,100 wage treatment, 700 costs treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Committee on the Use of Human Subjects - Harvard University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

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Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials