The impact of women's mental load on labor productivity and occupational choices. Evidence from Italy (in Italian: La percezione del carico famigliare nelle scelte professionali)

Last registered on October 04, 2023


Trial Information

General Information

The impact of women's mental load on labor productivity and occupational choices. Evidence from Italy (in Italian: La percezione del carico famigliare nelle scelte professionali)
Initial registration date
September 29, 2023

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
October 04, 2023, 4:46 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

University of Florence

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Università di Bologna
PI Affiliation
Università di Firenze
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
This study quantifies the gender-differenciated impact of mental load on labor market outcomes in Italy. Italy is one of the European countries with the lower female participation to the labor market, and the higher gender pay gap. Looking at time use data, in Italy women spend in unpaid work (domestic work and childcare) 13 hours more than their partners on a weekly base. The mental labor associated with the management of the household and caring about the well-being of the individuals of the family may explain part of the gender pay gap. Because of its invisible nature, mental load has received limited attention. A lab-in-the-field experiment has been designed to test the hypothesis that mental load can have a gender-differenciated impact on productivity and self-selection of women and men. The field experiment will involve a group of workers with children less than 18 year-old in the household, working in a public university in Tuscany (Italy).
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Faraoni, Natalia et al. 2023. "The impact of women's mental load on labor productivity and occupational choices. Evidence from Italy (in Italian: La percezione del carico famigliare nelle scelte professionali)." AEA RCT Registry. October 04.
Sponsors & Partners

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information
Experimental Details


We want to examine whether mental load, i.e., the management behind household activities and the cognitive labor for assuring the well-being of all components of the household, affects cognitive abilities and labor productivity of men and women, through a lab-in-the-field experiment. The treatment consists of priming in the mind of the participants thoughts related to mental load. They will then be asked to perform an effort task for 15 minutes divided in three slots: during the first and in the second, they will have to perform a more manual task and a more cognitive demaning task, in a random order. Then, in the last slot, they will be asked to choose whether they rather perform the manual or the cognitive task, knowing that the more cognitive task will be highly payed.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
There are three primary outcome variables of interest: performance in the tasks, self-selection into less cognitive-demanding jobs, and optimal choice of income maximization based on previous productivity levels.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Labor productivity will be measured as the performance in the exogenous (i.e., during the first 10 minutes of the effort task) and in the endogenous task (i.e., during the last 5 minutes of the effort task). Values will be standardized to be able to compare among them. Then, we will measure productivity in the manual and in the cognitive task separately. The second outcome of interest will be a dummy variable which will be equal to 1 if the participant chooses to perform the Tower of Hanoi with 4 disks, and 0 if she chooses to count zeros in the third round of the effort task. The third outcome of interest will be a dummy variable equal to 1 if the individual chooses the income maximizing option in the third round or not. Based on the productivity levels in the first two rounds, we will build the dummy variable which is equal to one if the participant makes an irrational choice, i.e., if she/he chooses for the third round to perform the task in which she/he was less productive during the first two rounds of the effort task.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary outcomes will be the average number of moves needed to complete the Towers of Hanoi and the average time needed to complete each Tower. We will also look at the time needed to complete each table with zeros and ones, and the separate income of each task.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
A socio-economic questionnarie and a mental load questionnaire will be administered to both participants of the treatment and control group the days before the experiment. On the day of the experiment, participants in the treatment and in the control group will be exposed to a similar set of activities, in a slightly similar order, while modifying their contents for priming the minds of treatment group participants with the thoughts related to the household. In detail, participants in the treatment group will be first exposed to a time-use diary, then to a vignette describing the main dimensions of mental load, and then they will be asked to perform an effort task. The effort task will be modified in order to continue to recall to participants their most pressing worries and thoughts related to the household. Participants in the control group, on the other hand, will have to read a neutral vignette related to the correct posture during working hours, and then they will be asked to perform the effort task, that is presented in a more neutral way. At the end, they will be asked to complete the time-use diary. The effort task will last 15 minutes. The 15 minutes will be divided into three-time slots of 5 minutes each. During the first two slots, participants will have to count the number of zeros in a table with ones and zeros, and complete as many tables as possible, as well as complete as many Towers of Hanoi as possible starting with three disks with increasing difficulty. For the last time slot, participants will have to choose whether they would rather play the Tower of Hanoi starting with an increased difficulty level (i.e., with 4 disks and up) or count zeros again.
Experimental Design Details
During the effort tasks, on the screen of the treatment group will appear several post-it that remember things to do related with the household management and with the well-being of the children (the doctor's appointments, the dinner to be prepared, etc.). For the control group, the post-it that will appear will be related with the correct posture of the subject during working hours.
Randomization Method
Randomization done from the office through phone calls.
Randomization Unit
The unit of randomization are individuals. We sample individuals with children under the age of 18, working either in the administration and in a academic position at the university of Florence (Tuscany).
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
We will sample a total of 250 individuals, divided into equal shares between women and men
Sample size: planned number of observations
250 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
125 individuals in the treatment group and 125 individulas in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Commissione per l'Etica della Ricerca (Università degli Studi di Firenze)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

There is information in this trial unavailable to the public. Use the button below to request access.

Request Information


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