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Secret Keeping and Jobs for Women

Last registered on December 18, 2016


Trial Information

General Information

Secret Keeping and Jobs for Women
Initial registration date
October 15, 2016

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 15, 2016, 7:12 AM EDT

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

Last updated
December 18, 2016, 8:17 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Female labor force participation is low and falling in India. This pattern is concerning given the growing evidence that jobs empower women, and the particular need for such empowerment in India, where norms of patrilocality, patrilineality and dowry contribute to pervasive under-investment in women. In this project we explore two sides of the story, with a two-stage experiment. For both, we partner with a large carpet manufacturing firm that is recruiting rural women for weaving positions in a region where weaving is a male-dominated activity. We hypothesise that men often control the decisions of their wives, preventing them from enrolling against their wishes. In the first stage of our experiment, we explore whether enrollment decisions are affected by whether the husband or wife is directly canvassed, and in turn whether this is affected by amount of information known by the "non-canvassed" spouse. In the second stage, we randomise which women get positions amongst those that enroll. This way, we can also explore the effect of the job on longer-run income, labor supply and empowerment.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Lowe, Matt and Madeline McKelway. 2016. "Secret Keeping and Jobs for Women." AEA RCT Registry. December 18.
Former Citation
Lowe, Matt and Madeline McKelway. 2016. "Secret Keeping and Jobs for Women." AEA RCT Registry. December 18.
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Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
For the take-up experiment, the primary outcome variable is whether the eligible woman enrolled. Secondary outcome variables include those from a knowledge quiz carried out over the phone (to test directly for information flows/with-holding between spouses). For the second-stage jobs experiment our primary outcomes will be (a) labor supply and income of the eligible woman, (b) labor supply and income of her spouse (if married), (c) empowerment measures of the eligible woman, and (d) gender attitudes of both the eligible woman and her spouse (if married) (for example, on appropriateness of women working outside the home).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
For our measures of empowerment, we hope to innovate and use "revealed preference" measures of the freedoms that these women have (as opposed to survey-based measures which are more susceptible to social desirability bias, amongst other biases). We are yet to establish which exact measures we will use.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The first stage is a take-up experiment. Amongst eligible married women we randomise whether the husband or wife is given the job information and ticket required to enroll. To explore mechanisms behind any effect of who gets the ticket, we cross-randomise whether the "non-ticketed" spouse (a) doesn't know about the ticket (with the "ticketed" spouse having "plausible deniability"), (b) knows about the ticket but doesn't receive job information, (c) knows about the ticket and receives job information, or (d) meets together with the "ticketed" spouse to receive job information, and to have a three-minute discussion about the opportunity. This set-up permits us to explore both information with-holding and psychological mechanisms behind any effects of who gets the ticket.

Conditional on over-subscription in the first stage, we will have a second stage randomisation in which we randomise which enrolled women are actually offered the job training. These women will also be offered weaving work beyond the training period, conditional on good performance. We then plan to return in 1-2 years to evaluate effects on female (and spouse's) labor supply, income, empowerment and attitudes toward gender norms of each spouse.
Experimental Design Details
To ensure that there is indeed "plausible deniability" in group (a), we first randomise whether an eligible woman gets a ticket at all (with 90% assigned to get tickets). The fact that there are 10% of eligible women that don't get tickets gives a plausible excuse for those spouses in group (a) that want to hide the fact a ticket has been received (they can say to their spouse "unfortunately you didn't win the lottery"). Without this, the fact that we survey all spouses might "give the game away".

In the first stage, we stratify the randomisation on whether married, village-cluster and caste. In the second stage, we will stratify the randomisation on how the eligible woman was selected in the first stage - in particular, whether the woman was assigned to receive the job ticket directly, or whether her spouse was assigned the ticket. Then we can test for heterogeneous effects of the job by how the woman was selected in.

Unmarried women will also be included in the experiment, but primarily to increase the chances of over-subscription in the second stage. For the first stage, unmarried women will be randomly assigned to either receive the job ticket directly, or have their head of household receive it. In both cases, these "pairs" are treated as if in group (a) (with the "non-ticketed" pair not knowing that the other has the ticket).

Update (December 2016): As of writing this update, we have reached at most the halfway point of our study. We have completed the recruitment and opening for 3 centers and are in the process of recruitment and opening of 3 additional centers. If export demand allows the firm to open additional centers in the new year, we hope to do recruitment and opening of more than 6 centers.

Though noisy, our enrollment data at this point suggests a counter-intuitive finding. In particular, enrollment falls as women get more information in the treatment arm where the husband gets the ticket. This is despite the fact that our data consistently confirm our priors regarding gender differences in preferences for women’s employment (e.g. women are less likely to think that weaving is an "inappropriate" job for women to take).

At this point it seems then that there is value in adding some survey questions to shed light on potential mechanisms that might explain this counter-intuitive effect (if it remains once all data is in). Though we already have some questions in the Endline survey that can help (e.g. "who had most influence over the enrollment decision?" to test whether giving information to the wife reduces her influence over the decision), we decided extra questions would be useful, with two hypotheses in particular in mind:

(a) Backlash/nagging wives: discussions become more argumentative when the wife has more information and is more likely to initiate discussions. For this, we are adding questions relating to how argumentative discussions are.

(b) Magnanimous husbands: husbands like to be generous (e.g. for the reciprocity generosity instigates), and so are more likely to allow enrollment when they can take the credit for it. Husbands can take credit for enrollment when the wife does not have information. For this, we are adding questions relating to whether reciprocity is expected if enrollment is allowed.

In addition to the counter-intuitive effect of giving wives information, we find a large positive effect of giving the ticket to the wife in the Discussion group. We have two hypotheses for explaining this and have added questions to address them:

(a) Endowment effects: whoever receives the ticket gets extra influence over the decision due to an endowment effect and only in the discussion group is this effect not confounded by asymmetric information. We added questions about who holds the ticket now to understand endowment effects.

(b) Signalling effects: participants may feel that ticket receipt is a signal that they are the person who should make the decision. This effect may be particularly strong in the discussion group and/or confounded by asymmetric information in the other treatments. To study this, we added questions on why people think we gave the ticket to one spouse instead of the other.

All these survey changes were to the Endline (phone) survey, and took effect for the first time in the field on December 5, 2016 (for the Endline for the 4th center).
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Pair (either eligible woman and her husband, or eligible unmarried woman and her head of household.) This is equivalent to having randomisation at the eligible woman-level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
For first stage: 1000 eligible women (will depend in particular on whether our timing fits that of our partner's plans to open women weaving centres. If our partner decides to stop opening centres (e.g. due to low interest), then we will also have to stop).

For second stage: 300 women enrolled.
Sample size: planned number of observations
For first stage: 1000 eligible women (plus data for their "pairs"). For second stage: 300 women.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
For first stage: 800 married women with 100 in each treatment group (husband vs. wife gets ticket, cross-randomised with (a)-(d)). 200 unmarried women with 100 in each treatment group (woman vs. head of hh gets ticket).

For second stage: 140 offered jobs (7 training centres with 20 slots each), 160 control group (put on waiting list).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IFMR Human Subjects Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
September 30, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
September 30, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
495 couples
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
495 couples
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials