This research project will examine the impacts of the Refugee and Host Integration through the Safety Net program (RHISN). RHISN is implemented by the Government of Ethiopia through the Ministry of Urban and Infrastructure and the Refugees and Returnees Service, is one of few attempts by a LMIC to integrate camp-based refugees into the national social safety net. Refugees and hosts alike will participate in remunerated public works activities (e.g. building water points, roads, irrigation ditches, etc.) for up to 3 years providing a stable source of income. In addition, beneficiaries will receive graduation-style livelihood support consisting of training, and a 600 USD business grant in the second year. Beneficiaries will also obtain a work permit to legally participate in the local host labor market. As such, RHISN represents a unique opportunity to study the consequences of integrating refugees into a graduation program through experimental variation at scale. Its large-scale nature will allow us to study not only direct impacts on recipients, but also impacts on non-recipients, on local economic activity, on social cohesion at the neighborhood and work-team level, and the channels that underlie them.
Together with the Ethiopian government, we have set up a large-scale Randomized Control Trial (RCT) among the four main refugee hosting areas in Ethiopia with over 20,000 beneficiaries to evaluate the scaled-up implementation of RHISN. Baseline social integration varies widely across these areas, ranging from places where hosts and refugees share a common language, religion and tribal affiliation to others where they do not share any, and where there is sporadic violent conflict. Experimental work in this space is limited because conducting RCTs in humanitarian settings is complicated by the high vulnerability and mobility of forcibly displaced populations. Even rarer are studies using randomization at-scale which is crucial to understanding both the implementation challenges of large programs, as well as the general equilibrium (or economy-wide) forces shaping economic and social integration dynamics, and for generalizing findings to other contexts. Our proposed project has both elements.