Between September 2006 and April 2007, we worked with staff from India's largest women's bank, SEWA Bank, to provide over 400 female bank clients in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, India, access to a two-day business counseling program. Our sample consisted of 636 women age 18 to 50 who had actively saved or borrowed from SEWA Bank between December 2004 and January 2006. We followed a two-stage selection process: first, we selected all 435 eligible women from a pool of 1900 SEWA clients for whom a socioeconomic survey, which we use for baseline data, had recently been conducted. Second, in February 2007, we randomly selected an additional 201 women from the entire SEWA Bank customer database (using the eligibility criteria listed above), and conducted a brief baseline survey for these clients.
Of the 636 participants, 212 clients were randomized into the control group, 217 were selected for the first treatment arm - train alone - and 207 were selected for the second treatment arm - train with a friend. We followed a two-step stratified randomization procedure: the first stratification is provided by the two-stage selection procedure described above (the randomization for the first 435 women and the additional 201 clients occurred at different times). Second, we stratified by SEWA branch, with a woman being classified by one of the four bank branches nearest to her home. Occupation, religion, caste, and other socio-demographic characteristics are often correlated with the area in which the woman lives, so branch stratification helped balance the sample on these characteristics. In addition, trainings occurred at all four branches (with women recruited for the trainings at their nearest branches). The overall treatment group, combining both arms, consists of 424 women.
Women were randomly assigned into control, treated alone, and treated with friend groups. Surveyors were unaware of the individual's treatment status at the time of the baseline survey. After the completion of the baseline survey, surveyors were given a list of women to recruit for training. Typically, two surveyors, accompanied by a local SEWA bank officer (“saathi”), went to invite each woman in the treatment group. The woman was informed that many women had previously attended business training and had reported benefiting from it. In addition, she was informed that she would receive tea and snacks at each training, and if she attended both days of the training, she would receive Rs. 40 to cover her travel expenses. Women were not otherwise financially compensated for attending the training. During recruitment, the woman was also shown a business-training certificate of participation and a photograph of training participants, which she would receive upon completion of the training on the second day. The estimated cost of providing the training is Rs. 157 (about four US dollars in 2007) per participant, including the instructor fee, classroom costs, recruitment, snacks, and transportation reimbursement.
Each study client invited for the training was informed that one of her friends may be invited to the same training if enough spots were available. She was then asked to list the names, occupations, and addresses of three friends, two from her occupation and one with a different occupation. For women in the treatment- with-friend group, we randomly selected one of the three friends listed and a surveyor visited the woman's friend and invited her to attend the same training session.
We had a single instructor team, and thus training sessions rotated among the four locations, with the order and schedule determined by classroom availability in the SEWA branches. Women were recruited to attend a particular training session at their nearest SEWA branch. Typically eight study participants were invited for training per session - four from the treatment-alone group and four from the treatment-with-friend group. Actual attendance was, therefore, up to twelve if all study participants attended and those eligible to do so brought friends. Toward the end of the intervention, nine or ten women were often recruited, including women who were unable to attend earlier. The morning of the training, the recruiters would return to the women's homes to remind them about the training later that afternoon. Those who had telephones were also called as an additional reminder.
In total, we conducted 57 two-day training sessions over an eight-month period from September 2006 to April 2007, and 292 women from the sample attended training. In the estimation, each woman's randomly assigned treatment status rather than her attendance at training is used to identify the program effects. For analysis purposes, the 212 women who were randomized into the control group were assigned to a training session. We followed the same protocol as for the treatment group and assigned control women to a treatment session at their nearest SEWA location. In 32 percent of groups, we assigned three control members, in 65 percent we assigned four control members, and in the remaining 3 percent (two groups), five control participants were assigned per group. For the follow-up survey, control group and treatment clients in the same session were surveyed at the same time. In our regression analysis we cluster standard errors by training session.
The business counseling and training program was also analyzed in Field, Jayachandran and Pande (2010), where we examined dierences between the control and treatment groups irrespective of whether they were invited with a friend. In that paper, we showed that average treatment impacts also varied with the individual's caste and religion, which were linked to social norms on mobility.