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Reducing Crime and Violence Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia
Last registered on April 27, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Reducing Crime and Violence Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001205
Initial registration date
April 27, 2016
Last updated
April 27, 2016 4:21 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Chicago
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
The World Bank Global Insights Initiative
PI Affiliation
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Clinical Psychology
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2010-12-13
End date
2013-10-22
Secondary IDs
Abstract
The paper shows that self-control, time preferences, and values are malleable in adults, and that investments in these skills and preferences reduce crime and violence. The authors recruited criminally-engaged Liberian men and randomized half to eight weeks of group cognitive behavioral therapy, fostering self-regulation, patience, and noncriminal values. They also randomized $200 grants. Cash alone and therapy alone dramatically reduced crime and violence, but effects dissipated within a year. When cash followed therapy, however, crime and violence decreased by as much as 50 percent for at least a year. They hypothesize that cash reinforced therapy’s lessons by prolonging practice and self-investment.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Blattman, Christopher, Julian Jamison and Margaret Sheridan. 2016. "Reducing Crime and Violence Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia." AEA RCT Registry. April 27. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1205-1.0.
Former Citation
Blattman, Christopher, Julian Jamison and Margaret Sheridan. 2016. "Reducing Crime and Violence Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia." AEA RCT Registry. April 27. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1205/history/8000.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The trial exposes poor, at-risk men to a mix of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and cash transfer in order to rehabilitate them from a life of petty crime, drug and anti-social behavior. A total of 999 at-risk youth were recruited for the study and assigned to one of the following treatment arms:
1) Cash only: a one-time cash disbursement of $200 – about three months wage - with no restrictions on usage.
2) Therapy: Eight week intervention in which twenty men met in groups three times a week, four hours at a time, led by two facilitators. On alternate days when groups did not meet, facilitators visited men at home or work to provide advising and encouragement. Therapy aimed to improve participants’ self-image and self-control.
3) Therapy and cash: After therapy ended, the men were given a one-time disbursement of $200.
4) Control: The men do not receive cash or therapy.
Intervention Start Date
2011-03-11
Intervention End Date
2012-04-11
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Changes in:
1) anti-social behavior
2) income
3) self-control
4) time preferences
5) anti-criminal and anti-violence values
6) others (pro-social behavior, mental health, self efficacy and esteem, appearance, substance abuse, quality of social networks, subjective wellbeing and executive function)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1) Anti-social behavior: selling drugs, fights, weapons, arrest, aggressive and hostile behavior, intimate partner abuse, political violence.
2) Income: (i) estimated earnings in all activities in the past two weeks; (ii) consumption in the past two weeks; and (iii) an index of durable assets.
3) Self-control: (i) 9 questions from the Barrett Impulsiveness Scale which assesses one’s inability to control thoughts and actions (ii) 8 questions from the NEO-five factor personality inventory to assess conscientious. Topics included following societal rules, and controlled, careful behavior (iii) 7 questions on perseverance from the GRIT scale which captures the ability to press on in the face of difficulty (iv) 8 questions on reward responsiveness—whether they are motivated by immediate, typically emotional rewards—from the Behavioral Inhibition/Behavioral Activation Scale.
4) Time preference: measured through incentivized games and survey questions to create a summary index of 4 measures of patience and 4 of time inconsistency.
5) Anti-criminal and anti-violence values: Self reported measures of towards violence and crime in their own lives. 11 questions were asked about using violence to solve personal problems, 12 questions about participating in crime as a livelihood and 6 about political violence. A composite index was creating using all three categories of questions.
6) Other outcomes: self-reported and various standardized testing instruments.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment uses a 2x2 factorial design. In the first lottery, half the recruited men were assigned to therapy. In a second lottery, half the full sample of the participants was assigned to a cash grant. This created four treatment arms where 25% received both therapy and cash, 25% received only cash, 28% only therapy, and 22% to neither.

A pilot phase was first conducted with 100 men and given that there were no security issues, expanded to include 899 more. Participants were surveyed five times: baseline, two shortrun surveys at 2 and 5 weeks, and long run surveys at 12 and 13 months after grants. Given the sample men was extremely mobile, extensive effort was made to track individual participants, even travelling to different parts of the country to track them down. Ultimately, the resurvey rate was 92.7%. The other issue was that most responses were self-reported where individuals might be inclined to underreport stigmatized behavior such as gambling and criminal activity. To validate self-reported responses, a randomly chosen subsample of 240 participants were shadowed for four days by specially trained facilitators who recorded their findings without knowing what the original self-reported responses were.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Two different randomizations took place: one to assign therapy status and the other to assign cash grant status. Randomization was by public draw where men took turns drawing colored chips from a fabric bag.
Randomization Unit
Individual men
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Study not clustered
Sample size: planned number of observations
999 men
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Total: 999 men
Therapy: 277
Cash: 251
Therapy & cash: 249
Control: 222
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
It was estimated that the Minimum Detectible Effect for a sample size of 1,000 (with a quarter for each of the four treatment arms) would be a 0.12 standard deviation change in a standardized dependent variable for a two-tail hypothesis test with statistical significance of 0.05, statistical power of 0.80, an intra-cluster correlation of 0.25, and the proportion of individual variance explained by covariates as 0.10.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Columbia University
IRB Approval Date
2012-07-06
IRB Approval Number
IRB-AAAK2655
IRB Name
Yale University
IRB Approval Date
2010-12-16
IRB Approval Number
0912006068
IRB Name
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
IRB Approval Date
2011-06-13
IRB Approval Number
166.11June-005
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
April 11, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
October 22, 2013, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Study not clustered
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
947 men
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Cash: 251 Therapy: 277 Cash+therapy: 249 Control: 222
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No

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Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
REDUCING CRIME AND VIOLENCE EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE ON ADULT NONCOGNITIVE INVESTMENTS IN LIBERIA

The paper shows that self-control, time preferences, and values are malleable in adults, and that investments in these skills and preferences reduce crime and violence. The authors recruited criminally-engaged Liberian men and randomized half to eight weeks of group cognitive behavioral therapy, fostering self-regulation, patience, and noncriminal values. They also randomized $200 grants. Cash alone and therapy alone dramatically reduced crime and violence, but effects dissipated within a year. When cash followed therapy, however, crime and violence decreased by as much as 50 percent for at least a year. They hypothesize that cash reinforced therapy’s lessons by prolonging practice and self-investment.
Citation
Blattman, Christopher, Julian Jamison, and Margaret Sheridan. “Reducing Crime and Violence: Experimental Evidence on Adult Noncognitive Investments in Liberia.” NBER Working Paper No. 21204, May 2015.