Lucky to Work

Last registered on December 13, 2022


Trial Information

General Information

Lucky to Work
Initial registration date
December 05, 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
December 13, 2022, 10:51 PM EST

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



Primary Investigator

University of Arkansas

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
George Mason University

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
People often regard inequalities as more acceptable when they reflect differences in effort rather than luck. In practice, however, effort and luck are commonly intertwined and elements of luck decide whether there is even an opportunity to exert effort. We study redistributive behavior when it is common knowledge that luck completely determines whether an agent gets to work. Using survey experiments in general population samples in the United States and Sweden, we document how spectators tasked with redistributing income between agents largely ignore the fact that work status is exogenous, and grant working agents both more earnings and more utility than non-workers. One reason that this pattern arises seems to be that initial, pre-redistribution earnings act as a stronger reference point when agents work, even when their ability to work is randomly determined. Spectators behave very similarly in the United States and in Sweden.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Bhattacharya, Puja and Johanna Mollerstrom. 2022. "Lucky to Work." AEA RCT Registry. December 13.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Final Income Allocation by Subjects in the role of spectators.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We conduct an experiment to identify individuals’ redistributive preferences in situations where luck completely determines whether a person can work or not. The experiment includes two types of participants: agents and spectators. Our main focus is on the decisions of impartial spectators who choose to redistribute income between two agents receiving unequal initial earnings.
The agents all start by trying out an Encoding Task for one minute in Part 1 of the experiment. After that, in Part 2, the agents are paired and one in each pair is assigned a high earning of $1.20 (agent H) and the other is assigned low earnings $0.20 (agent L). The agents are given one of two assignments at random: work (do the encoding task again for another minute) or not work (wait for one minute). Each spectator is matched with a pair of agents, observes their roles and assignments and decides if, and how much, to redistribute from H to L.
Our main treatment (Treatment 1) will allow us to document redistribution decisions in situations where who can and who cannot work is assigned at random. In Treatment 1, spectators make redistribution decisions between pairs of agents one of who works and the other waits. The ‘worker’ receives the high initial earnings ($H) while the ‘non-worker’ receives the low initial earnings ($L). Agents are told, another participant who has not taken part in the survey will learn of their roles and work status and determine their final payment.
To benchmark how spectators in Treatment 1 tradeoff initial luck with subsequent work status, we compare the results of Treatment 1 with two benchmark treatments - Treatment 2 and Treatment 3. In Treatment 2 both agents wait while in Treatment 3, both agents work. Hence, in the benchmark treatments, initial earnings is still assigned at random (as in Treatment 1), but now both agents have the same work status. If spectators in Treatment 1 condition decisions solely on the fact that work status was exogenously assigned (without regard to the difference in work status between agents), then redistribution decisions across treatments 1, 2 and 3 would look similar. Alternately, if spectators base their decision on different work status (albeit assigned at random), we expect to observe lower redistribution in treatment 1 as compared to treatments 2 and 3.
Participants are recruited in the US and Sweden and the surveys are administered by the market research firm Respondi.

Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization through Qualtrics program
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1000 subjects in the United States and 1000 subjects in Sweden
Sample size: planned number of observations
1000 subjects in the United States and 1000 subjects in Sweden (same as the cluster)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
250 individuals in each treatment arm for each country
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
Document Type
Document Description
Attached is the proposal to request funding for the experiment.

MD5: 1644e3a1a845b908e2e524670d7820d0

SHA1: 35818c85e653ccec38b0a1fb12c78d6c0e114d9a

Uploaded At: December 05, 2022


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Arkansas
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
George Mason University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials