Evaluating the impact of recipient choice in aid provision

Last registered on April 12, 2018


Trial Information

General Information

Evaluating the impact of recipient choice in aid provision
Initial registration date
February 23, 2017

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
February 23, 2017, 9:14 AM EST

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

Last updated
April 12, 2018, 4:19 AM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Through a randomized control trial respondents were randomly selected to receive either a particular development program (agricultural extension, agricultural inputs, livestock transfers) or an equivalent amount of cash. We then elicit respondents' indifference point for the program in question. Subsequently, we randomly assigned individuals to receive the program in question or cash transfer equal to the cost of the program. After an appropriate delay, we will return to recipients to measure outcomes associated with their economic situation and general well-being (e.g., income, assets, psychological well-being). This design allows us to answer several questions related to the optimal allocation of aid dollars:

1. Do individuals who express a high valuation for a particular assistance program benefit more from that program than similar individuals who receive an equivalently valuable resource?

2. Do individuals whose choice was respected in the allocation decision (e.g., they receive the program if they value it more than the cost) benefit more from resource transfers than individuals whose choice was not respected in the allocation decision?

3. How do the impacts of several common development programs (agricultural extension, subsidized agricultural inputs and livestock transfers) compare to equally valuable cash transfers?
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Shapiro, Jeremy. 2018. "Evaluating the impact of recipient choice in aid provision." AEA RCT Registry. April 12. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2015-4.0
Former Citation
Shapiro, Jeremy. 2018. "Evaluating the impact of recipient choice in aid provision." AEA RCT Registry. April 12. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2015/history/28113
Experimental Details


Programs included in the study are:

1. Agricultural extension: we hired a team of 11 agriculture experts, with a combined experience of 66 years in the agricultural sector, to deliver in-person group training to randomly selected farming households. The training sessions ran from September to October 2016 - leading up to the “short rains” agricultural seasons in Kenya. The training includes education on: land preparation, planting, soil fertility, crop selection, soil and water management, field management (fertilization, pest and disease management, weeding), record keeping and financial management, farmer group dynamics and con conflict resolution, harvesting, post-harvest management, value addition and marketing.

2. Agricultural inputs: based on the advice of agricultural experts, we provided recipients with enough inputs to plant approximately 0.5 acres of cabbages or maize. The type of inputs to be provided were recommended by our agricultural consultants who determined the requirements based on terrain and crops grown in the study areas. Specifically, for the cabbage-growing region of Mbooni, we provided 50 grams of Baraka F1 seeds and 75 kilograms of planting fertilizer. For the maize-growing region of Kilungu, we provided 4 kg of Duma 43 seeds, 25 kg of planting fertilizer and 25 kg of top-dressing fertilizer. These inputs are roughly modeled after the Government of Kenya's National Accelerated Agriculture Inputs Access Program. The program includes a voucher, valued at USD 60 - 80, to cover the cost of 10 kg of hybrid maize seed, 50 kg of basal fertilizer, and 50 kg of top-dressing fertilizer, inputs sufficient for approximately 1 acre (0.4 ha) of maize. This study provides similar, though not precisely the same, package. Our agricultural inputs package also included a one-time information session on proper input usage provided by our extension agents.

3. Livestock transfers: recipients received 25 one-month old chicks vaccinated for common diseases as well as a starter pack of feed (~10 kg). Recipients were also provided with basic information about taking care of their chicks by our team of agricultural experts and were visited occasionally by the agriculture team over the following 4 months.

4. Cash transfers: some households were randomly selected to receive direct cash transfers. The size of these transfers match the per-recipient cost of one of the above programs $15 for agricultural extension, $75 for the 319 agricultural input recipients in Mbooni and $35 for the 181 agricultural input recipients in Kilungu, and $120 for livestock transfers. Cash transfers were delivered using the MPesa mobile money platform.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Consumption
2. Food security
3. Assets
4. Psychological well-being
5. Autonomy, dignity, trust

**Note: prior to launch, most questions from the GHQ scale were removed (to reduce survey length). The remaining questions include:

1. Have you recently felt that you were playing a useful part in things?
2. Have you recently felt capable of making decisions about things?
3. Have you recently felt that you couldn't overcome your difficulties?

These will be used in lieu of the full scale in analysis.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1. Consumption
2. Food security
3. Assets
4. Psychological well-being
5. Autonomy, dignity, trust

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We randomized 1,000 respondents into the “extension or cash” group, 1,000 into the “inputs or cash” group and 1,000 into the “livestock or cash” group. Within each group, we randomized individuals to receive either the program or a cash transfer equal to the cost of the program.

Randomization is conducted at the individual level. Though the informational components may have spillover effects, individual randomization is a deliberate choice: the primary goal of this study is to compare across cash or program arms in order to isolate the effect of the choice mechanism. In equilibrium, were recipients to be given a choice between programs and cash transfers, we expect some would choose the program, thus having a mix of those receiving cash and the program in the same village provides the most relevant comparison. Further, we chose a valuation based approach to estimating whether a respondent prefers cash or the program, as opposed to a direct choice between the two. This choice was made as a valuation approach could potentially be extended to multiple interventions of various costs (if preferences matter, it may be wise to provide the program with the highest ratio of valuation to cost).
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
3,000 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Based on a sample of 3,000 (those receiving either a program or cash) and 4, we can detect an effect size of 0.09 standard deviations with 80% power. For reference, based on data from (Haushofer & Shapiro, 2016), a 0.09 SD change corresponds to a 7% change in the value of assets and a 5% change in consumption.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Kenya Medical Research Institute
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents


MD5: e8df619e1f4eeb0075b8fc434b41a737

SHA1: fdbb272cccc558dc4a93a836d120e14a0498e0db

Uploaded At: February 16, 2017


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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
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

This study compares the impact of several common development

programs (agricultural extension, subsidized agricultural inputs and

livestock transfers) to cash transfers equal to the cost of each program.

Prior to program delivery, recipients were asked
Shapiro, Jeremy. "The impact of recipient choice on aid effectiveness," January 01, 2018.