Our experiments were conducted in 100 villages in two districts (Kurigram and Lalmonirhat) in the seasonal-famine prone Rangpur region of northwestern Bangladesh. The two districts where the project was conducted (Lalmonirhat and Kurigram) represent the agro-ecological zones that regularly witness the monga famine. We randomly selected 100 villages in these two districts and first conducted a village census in each location in June 2008. Next, we randomly selected 19 households in each village from the set of households that reported (a) that they owned less than 50 decimals of land, and (b) that a household member was forced to miss meals during the prior (2007) monga season. In August 2008, we randomly allocated the 100 villages into four groups: Cash, Credit, Information, and Control. These treatments were subsequently implemented on the 19 households in each village in collaboration with PKSF through their partner NGOs with substantial field presence in the two districts. The partner NGOs were already implementing micro-credit programs in each of the 100 sample villages.
The NGOs implemented the interventions in late August 2008 for the monga season starting in September. Sixteen of the 100 study villages (consisting of 304 sample households) were randomly assigned to form a control group. A further 16 villages (consisting of another 304 sample households) were placed in a job-information-only treatment. These households were given information on types of jobs available in four preselected destinations, the likelihood of getting such a job, and approximate wages associated with each type of job and destination. Seven hundred three households in 37 randomly selected villages were offered cash of 600 Taka (approx. US$8.50) at the origin conditional on migration, and an additional bonus of 200 Taka (approx. US$3) if the migrant reported to us at the destination during a specified time period. We also provided exactly the same information about jobs and wages to this group as in the information-only treatment. Six hundred Taka covers a little more than the average round-trip cost of safe travel from the two origin districts to the four nearby towns for which we provided job information. We monitored migration behavior carefully and strictly imposed the migration conditionality, so that the 600 Taka intervention was practically equivalent to providing a bus ticket. The 589 households in the final set of 31 villages were offered the same information and the same Tk. 600 + Tk. 200 incentive to migrate, but in the form of a zero-interest loan to be paid back at the end of the monga season. The loan was offered by our partner micro-credit NGOs that have a history of lending money in these villages. There is an implicit understanding of limited liability on these loans since we are lending to the extremely poor during a period of financial hardship. As discussed below, ultimately 80% of households were able to repay the loan. In the 68 villages where we provided monetary incentives for people to seasonally out-migrate (37 cash + 31 credit villages), we sometimes randomly assigned additional conditionalities to subsets of households within the village. Some households were required to migrate in groups, and some were required to migrate to a specific destination. These conditionalities created random within-village variation, which we use as instrumental variables to study spillover effects from one person to another.