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Job Networks and Gender in Malawi
Last registered on November 14, 2017


Trial Information
General Information
Job Networks and Gender in Malawi
Initial registration date
December 20, 2016
Last updated
November 14, 2017 2:45 PM EST
Primary Investigator
Northwestern University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of California, Berkeley
PI Affiliation
Innovations for Poverty Action
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
This paper uses a field experiment in Malawi to show that highly skilled women are systematically disadvantaged by referral-based hiring, highlighting another channel behind gender disparities in the labor market. The main reason is that men systematically refer few women. We show this is not because there are too few women who are qualified for the job. Instead we show that factors which are not related to women's qualifications but are instead due to the social environment - such as men having worse information about women’s abilities and receiving more social benefits from referring men - play a role. Firms cannot just rely on their female employees either since in this context, at least, women referred lower quality candidates.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Beaman, Lori, Niall Keleher and Jeremy Magruder. 2017. "Job Networks and Gender in Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. November 14. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1679-3.0.
Former Citation
Beaman, Lori et al. 2017. "Job Networks and Gender in Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. November 14. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1679/history/23213.
Experimental Details
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted a competitive recruitment drive for survey enumerators to test how job referrals affect the recruitment of men and women. Treatments for initial applicants was cross-randomized across two dimensions:

1) Restricting Referrals by Gender:
- Initial applicants may refer men only
- Initial applicants may refer women only
- Initial applicants may refer either gender

2) Finder's Fee Incentive:
- Initial applicants receives a fixed fee of 1000 Malawi Kwacha ($1=153 MWK) for their referral, regardless of referral quality
- Initial applicants receives a fixed fee of 1500 Malawi Kwacha for their referral, regardless of referral quality.
- Initial applicants receives a performance incentive (a guaranteed 500 MWK with the potential to earn an additional 1300 MWK, for a total of 1800 MWK, if the referral attained a certain threshold)
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
percentage of women referred, percentage of men referred, candidate quality, referral qualification rate
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Candidate quality: minimum requirements: secondary school certificate, fluency in the local language (Chichewa), and English reading and oral comprehension. Additional: data collection experience, good math skills, and basic computer skills.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted a competitive recruitment drive for survey enumerators to test how job referrals affect the recruitment of men and women. Enumerator positions were advertised by hanging flyers. Initial applicants attended a half-day interview process which included a written exam and a mock interview, where the candidate surveyed an actor playing the role of a typical respondent. At the conclusion of the application process, initial applicants were asked to refer a friend or relative to apply for the position and were offered a finder’s fee. Two dimensions were randomized: 1) Whether candidates could refer a man, a woman, or either, and 2) whether the finder's fee was fixed or based on the performance of their referral. Applicants who performed above the median qualified for future positions and were informed that they would be called as positions open. Participants were limited to those individuals who had never worked for IPA.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was conducted using a computerized random digit generator to independently assign individual initial applicants to treatment and control by (1) referral gender restriction, and (2) finder's fee incentive.
Randomization Unit
900 initial applicants
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
No clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
900 job candidates
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
300 men only, 300 women only, 300 either gender
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Northwestern University Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
August 01, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
August 01, 2012, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
No clusters
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
816 job candidates
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
257 men only, 293 women only, 266 either gender
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
We use a field experiment to show that referral-based hiring has the potential to disadvantage qualified women, highlighting another potential channel behind gender disparities in the labor market. Through a recruitment drive for a firm in Malawi, we look at men’s and women’s referral choices under different incentives and constraints. We find that men systematically refer few women, despite being able to refer qualified women when explicitly asked for female candidates. Performance pay also did not alter men’s tendencies to refer men. In addition, women did not refer enough high-quality women to offset men’s behavior.

Note: This article is available at the Journal of Labor Economics.
Beaman, Lori, Niall Keleher, and Jeremy Magruder. "Do Job Networks Disadvantage Women? Evidence from a Recruitment Experiment in Malawi." Journal of Labor Economics, November 2017.