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Payment Mechanisms and Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Mobile Money Cash Transfer Experiment in Niger
Last registered on November 18, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Payment Mechanisms and Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Mobile Money Cash Transfer Experiment in Niger
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001586
Initial registration date
November 18, 2016
Last updated
November 18, 2016 9:27 AM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Tufts University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2009-12-01
End date
2012-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Cash transfers have become an increasingly important component of social protection policies in both developed and developing countries. While such programs are often implemented electronically in developed countries, in many developing countries with weak financial infrastructure, such transfers are distributed manually, resulting in significant costs to program recipients and the public sector alike. The introduction of mobile money systems in many developing countries offers new opportunities for distributing cash transfers. Using data from a randomized experiment of a mobile money cash transfer program in Niger, we find evidence of benefits of this new system: Household and child diet diversity was 9-16 percent higher among households who received mobile transfers and children ate 1/3 more of a meal per day. These results can be partially attributed to time savings associated with mobile transfers, as program recipients spent less time traveling to and waiting for their transfer. They are also associated with shifts in intra-household bargaining power for women. These results suggest that electronic transfers may address key logistical challenges in implementing cash transfer programs in developing countries, but that sufficient investment in the payments infrastructure is needed.
Registration Citation
Citation
Aker, Jenny. 2016. "Payment Mechanisms and Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Mobile Money Cash Transfer Experiment in Niger." AEA RCT Registry. November 18. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1586-1.0.
Former Citation
Aker, Jenny. 2016. "Payment Mechanisms and Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Mobile Money Cash Transfer Experiment in Niger." AEA RCT Registry. November 18. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1586/history/11876.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
In response to a drought in Niger in 2009, an unconditional cash transfer program was provided to targeted households across 96 villages. Villages were randomly assigned to one of the following interventions:

1) Manual cash transfer ("Cash"): Cash was distributed in the standard way in Niger, i.e., in individual envelopes
2) Manual cash transfer + mobile device ("Mobile"): Cash was distributed in the standard way in Niger (i.e., individual envelopes), but households also received a m-transfer-enabled mobile phone
3) Electronic cash transfer + mobile device ("Zap"): Program recipients received the transfer via the m-transfer system (Zap), as well as an m-transfer-enabled mobile phone

All program recipients were women. There was no pure control group. For all three interventions, the unconditional cash transfer was 22,000 CFA per month (approximately $45 USD) across 5 months. The timing of the transfers was similar across all three treatments.
Intervention Start Date
2010-01-01
Intervention End Date
2012-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Uses of the transfer (i.e., what the program recipient or household used the transfer for); food security (as measured by diet diversity and number of meals per day); child nutritional status; household asset ownership; whether the recipient received the cash transfer; location and timing of transfer and expenditures; mobile phone usage; intra-household decision-making; attrition; agricultural production and sales; intra- and inter-household sharing;
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Most of the outcomes included in the paper are taken directly from the survey. However, the following are composite outcome indicators:

Food security is measured by household diet diversity, which is the sum of all of the food groups (out of 12) the household consumed in the previous day;
Nutritional status is the z-score of weight-for-height, normalized with respect to the reference population
Asset ownership is the number (sum) of asset categories owned, out of 11, and also broken down by durable and non-durable assets;
All intra-household decision-making measures are proxies that are used and directly taken out of the survey.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
In 2009, Concern Worldwide originally identified 116 villages that were eligible for an unconditional cash transfer in the Tahoma region of Niger. Eligible villages were those classified as having a "food deficit" in 2009 (i.e., they produced less than 50% of their consumption needs during the 2009 harvest).

Among these eligible villages, certain villages were prioritized for receiving either the Cash or Zap intervention, based upon their lack of mobile phone coverage (Cash) or proximity to the Niger-Mali border (Zap). This therefore reduced the sample to 96 villages. These villages were stratified by administrative division (commune) and then randomly assigned to either the Cash, Mobile or Zap interventions.

Prior to program assignment, eligible households within each village were identified by a village-level vulnerability exercise. Those households that fell into two lowest vulnerability categories were selected to receive the transfer. In all villages (and across all treatment arms), the program recipients were women.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
The randomization was done in an office via a computer, and shared with Concern Worldwide.
Randomization Unit
The cluster is the village.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
The total sample size is 96 village.
Sample size: planned number of observations
The planned number of observations was 1,152 households (individuals). However, the baseline data contains fewer observations (due to administrative errors, the team did not collect data in certain villages). In addition, there was attrition, so the follow-up sample was 1,082 households.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
32 Cash villages, 32 Zap villages, and 32 Mobile villages
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Tufts University Social, Behavioral and Educational Research IRB
IRB Approval Date
2009-12-31
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
September 01, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
May 01, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
96 Villages
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,082 Program Recipients
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
32 Cash villages, 32 Zap villages, and 32 Mobile villages
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Cash transfers have become an increasingly important component of social protection policies in both developed and developing countries. While such programs are often implemented electronically in developed countries, in many developing countries with weak financial infrastructure, such transfers are distributed manually, resulting in significant costs to program recipients and the public sector alike. The introduction of mobile money systems in many developing countries offers new opportunities for distributing cash transfers. Using data from a randomized experiment of a mobile money cash transfer program in Niger, we find evidence of benefits of this new system: Household and child diet diversity was 9-16 percent higher among households who received mobile transfers and children ate 1/3 more of a meal per day. These results can be partially attributed to time savings associated with mobile transfers, as program recipients spent less time traveling to and waiting for their transfer. They are also associated with shifts in intra-household bargaining power for women. These results suggest that electronic transfers may address key logistical challenges in implementing cash transfer programs in developing countries, but that sufficient investment in the payments infrastructure is needed.
Citation
Aker, Jenny C., Rachid Boumnijel, Amanda McClelland, and Niall Tierney. "Payment mechanisms and anti-poverty programs: Evidence from a mobile money cash transfer experiment in Niger." Working Paper. July 2015.