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Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh
Last registered on July 21, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001165
Initial registration date
July 21, 2016
Last updated
July 21, 2016 10:43 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Yale University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
London School of Economics
PI Affiliation
University of Sydney
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2008-06-01
End date
2011-07-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Hunger during pre-harvest lean seasons is widespread in the agrarian areas of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We randomly assign an $8.50 incentive to households in rural Bangladesh to temporarily out-migrate during the lean season. The incentive induces 22% of households to send a seasonal migrant, their consumption at the origin increases significantly, and treated households are 8–10 percentage points more likely to re-migrate 1 and 3 years after the incentive is removed. These facts can be explained qualitatively by a model in which migration is risky, mitigating risk requires individual-specific learning, and some migrants are sufficiently close to subsistence that failed migration is very costly. We document evidence consistent with this model using heterogeneity analysis and additional experimental variation, but calibrations with forward-looking households that can save up to migrate suggest that it is difficult for the model to quantitatively match the data. We conclude with extensions to the model that could provide a better quantitative accounting of the behavior.
Registration Citation
Citation
Bryan, Gharad, Shyamal Chowdhury and Ahmed Mobarak. 2016. "Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh." AEA RCT Registry. July 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1165-1.0.
Former Citation
Bryan, Gharad, Shyamal Chowdhury and Ahmed Mobarak. 2016. "Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh." AEA RCT Registry. July 21. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1165/history/9520.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
This intervention primarily seeks to understand why workers in the Bangladeshi region of Rangpur who are affected by seasonal famine appear hesitant to seasonally migrate to better employment opportunities. There were two principal interventions: providing information about job opportunities in other locations and providing monetary incentives to migrate. A subset of households were given information about types of jobs available in other locations, the likelihood of getting each job, and approximate wages for four pre-selected potential migration destinations. Another subset of households were offered Tk 800 ($11.50) to migrate either in the form of cash or credit. Tk 600 ($8.50) was given pre-migration and Tk 200 was given once the migrant reported to the research office at his or her destination. A random subset of those receiving a monetary incentive were required to migrate in groups of either 2 or 3 as a condition of receiving money, and a fraction of those groups were chosen by the researchers, while for the rest the households had some choice regarding whom to migrate with. Destinations were also specified for a random subset of the households receiving an incentive, while the rest could choose from a limited set of cities where the researchers had offices and enumerators stationed (to help track the migration experience) and still take advantage of the subsidy. In total there were 21 treatment groups with different combinations of information, incentives, migration group size, and choice of migration partners or destinations.
Intervention Start Date
2008-08-28
Intervention End Date
2011-02-28
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Likelihood of seasonal migration (binary outcome)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
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.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Physical lottery (drawing notes), not public.
Randomization Unit
The village was the primary randomization unit; villages were assigned either to receive incentive (cash/credit), or not (information/control). However, within the incentivised villages, individuals were randomly assigned to groups (group size varied, group formation method varied), and to destinations (free to choose versus destinations randomly assigned).
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
100 villages
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,900 households identified as at risk for famine (19 households in each village)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control group: 16 villages (consisting of 304 sample households)
Job-information-only treatment group: 16 villages (consisting of another 304 sample households)
Cash incentive treatment group: 37 villages (703 households)
Credit incentive treatment group: 31 villages (589 households)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Human Subjects Committee, Yale Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2011-01-26
IRB Approval Number
1010007571
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
February 28, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
July 31, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
100 villages
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,900 households identified as at risk for famine (19 households in each village)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Control group: 16 villages (consisting of 304 sample households) Job-information-only treatment group: 16 villages (consisting of another 304 sample households) Cash incentive treatment group: 37 villages (703 households) Credit incentive treatment group: 31 villages (589 households)
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Hunger during pre-harvest lean seasons is widespread in the agrarian areas of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We randomly assign an $8.50 incentive to households in rural Bangladesh to temporarily out-migrate during the lean season. The incentive induces 22% of households to send a seasonal migrant, their consumption at the origin increases significantly, and treated households are 8–10 percentage points more likely to re-migrate 1 and 3 years after the incentive is removed. These facts can be explained qualitatively by a model in which migration is risky, mitigating risk requires individual-specific learning, and some migrants are sufficiently close to subsistence that failed migration is very costly. We document evidence consistent with this model using heterogeneity analysis and additional experimental variation, but calibrations with forward-looking households that can save up to migrate suggest that it is difficult for the model to quantitatively match the data. We conclude with extensions to the model that could provide a better quantitative accounting of the behavior.
Citation
Bryan, Gharad, Shyamal Chowdhury, and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak. 2014. "Under-investment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh." Econometrica 82(5): 1671-1748.