Women’s Agency and Women’s Labor Supply: Experimental Evidence from India

Last registered on June 13, 2019


Trial Information

General Information

Women’s Agency and Women’s Labor Supply: Experimental Evidence from India
Initial registration date
August 26, 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
August 28, 2017, 3:51 PM EDT

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

Last updated
June 13, 2019, 12:37 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

Dartmouth College

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
A striking feature of the lives of women living in rural India is their lack of agency. Decisions regarding female labor force participation (FLFP) are a case in point. I study FLFP in rural Uttar Pradesh through a partnership with a large Indian carpet manufacturer. The firm offers a weaving job for women that women themselves are very interested in taking. Yet, consistent with a lack of agency over the decision, women enroll at very low rates.

Intra-household barriers are often cited as a leading cause for women’s lack of agency; cultural norms in the setting lead women’s lives to be largely controlled by husbands and in-laws. However, a lack of agency may also reflect important, and often overlooked, psychological roots. In particular, women’s agency may be constrained by a lack of generalized efficacy (i.e. the conviction that one has the ability to attain desired outcomes) in women’s own psychology.

This project will offer randomly chosen women a psychosocial intervention designed to enhance generalized efficacy. The aim of this intervention is to give women the psychological assets required to act on their desires. I will investigate the effect of this intervention on enrollment in the weaving job and on other economic outcomes that represent commonly held goals of women in the setting.

Psychological efficacy will interact crucially with intra-household constraints on women’s agency whenever women’s desires conflict with those of their family members. On the one hand, the actions efficacy inspires may only be fruitful if not met with opposition from husbands and in-laws. On the other hand, the internal assets that efficacy engenders may allow women to overcome intra-household barriers on their own. Intra-household constraints will be particularly important in FLFP decisions as husbands and in-laws typically oppose women working outside of the home. I will therefore offer a second, cross-randomized intervention that markets the women’s weaving opportunity directly to husbands and in-laws so as to reduce intra-household opposition women face in enrollment. I will investigate the effect of this intervention, both given alone and together with the efficacy intervention, on enrollment decisions.

External Link(s)

Registration Citation

McKelway, Madeline. 2019. "Women’s Agency and Women’s Labor Supply: Experimental Evidence from India." AEA RCT Registry. June 13. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2399-4.0
Former Citation
McKelway, Madeline. 2019. "Women’s Agency and Women’s Labor Supply: Experimental Evidence from India." AEA RCT Registry. June 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2399/history/48066
Experimental Details


The first intervention will be a psychosocial intervention designed to enhance women's generalized efficacy. It will be delivered in nine group sessions held once or twice per week. Each group will consist of a single surveyor and several (around 6-10) women from the same basti. Women assigned to the control group will have the same schedule and format of meetings. But rather than discuss topics to enhance efficacy, the control group will respond to questions about their daily lives.

The second intervention is designed to reduce intra-household opposition women face in enrolling in the weaving job. To do so, the intervention will market the job opportunity to husbands and in-laws using video testimonials from participating wives and their husbands.

Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
(1) Psychological outcomes: (a) generalized self-efficacy, (b) self-esteem, (c) goal setting, (d) planning, (e) overall happiness.

(2) Weaving job outcomes: (a) enrollment, (b) retention, (c) stated interest, (d) household decision-making process.

(3) Child health visit sign-up.

(4) Other economic outcomes: (a) women’s work and earnings across all sectors, (b) child school attendance and studies, (c) household savings.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
(1) Psychological outcomes will be measured using questionnaires given at baseline and in multiple endline surveys. Psychological outcomes will be analyzed both question-by-question and in aggregated indices. Each index will aggregate responses to questions designed to measure the same underlying construct. I will consider two versions of each index that differ in their handling of “don’t know” responses in constituent questions: (i) replace “don’t know” responses to a particular question with the participant’s average response to other questions measuring the same construct as long as the participant responded to 70% or more of the questions measuring that construct (otherwise do not replace and record the index as missing), and (ii) replace “don’t know” responses to a particular question with the value corresponding to the lowest level of psychological wellbeing for that question.

(3) Women will be asked whether they would like to sign up for a child health visit during the Endline 1 survey. The visit would entail a member of the research team returning to a household several weeks after the study ends to measure the weights and heights of children in the home. A randomization will determine whether women are offered a visit that would occur on a Sunday or on a Wednesday. Women will be asked independently of other household members and therefore must make the sign-up decision autonomously. I predict that all women will find the visit desirable but women in the efficacy treatment will be more inclined to make such a decision autonomously. Further, signing up for a visit on a Sunday, when more adults in the household would be home, should require additional autonomy in decision-making. I therefore predict the efficacy treatment will increase sign-ups overall and that the treatment effect will be larger when visits would occur on a Sunday.

(4) Outcomes will be measured at baseline and in multiple endline surveys. All outcomes will be measured using survey (self-reported) data.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
I will conduct the experiment in conjunction with the firm's opening of six new women's weaving centers. The survey team will begin by canvassing the catchment area for each center to identify all eligible women, invite eligible women to participate in the study, and take a baseline survey. Study participants will then be assigned treatment status. This will take approximately 1 week. In weeks 2-6, the efficacy intervention will be delivered. At the end of the final session, surveyors will administer an Endline 1 survey. In week 7, surveyors will return to women to administer an Endline 2 survey and provide information about the weaving job opportunity. In the same week, surveyors will visit women's husbands and in-laws to deliver the intra-household opposition intervention. An enrollment day for the weaving job will occur at the start of the 8th week. An Endline 3 survey will be taken in the week following enrollment. The team will return 1-2 months later to take a follow-up survey.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in Stata
Randomization Unit
Generalized Efficacy Intervention: each household is randomly assigned to a meeting group consisting of around 6-10 households from its basti. Treatment is then assigned at the meeting group level. Whenever a household has multiple women and there are multiple groups in the household's basti with the same treatment status, individual women are re-assigned meeting group so as to minimize the number of women from the same household in the same meeting group while maintaining the same treatment status for all women in the household.

Intra-Household Opposition Intervention: treatment is assigned at the household level.

Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
150 meeting groups, roughly 900 households (exact values will depend on the number of households that enroll in the study).
Sample size: planned number of observations
Roughly 1000 women (exact values will depend on the number of women that enroll in the study).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Efficacy intervention: 75 meeting groups assigned to treatment and 75 to control. Intra-household opposition intervention (cross-randomized): about 450 households assigned to treatment and 450 to control (exact values will depend on the number of households that enroll in the study).
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials


Document Name
Effects of Women's Employment
Document Type
Document Description
This document describes an additional study that will be conducted using this experiment. The additional study will investigate the effects of women's employment.
Effects of Women's Employment

MD5: 8accee3dadc01d39259bd3cc3653e921

SHA1: f2eda39203f5bb53c560fbde9c14bc9438a269fb

Uploaded At: June 13, 2019

Document Name
Notes on Project Additions
Document Type
Document Description
This document describes key additions made to the trial initially registered.
Notes on Project Additions

MD5: ca5c0c1a2ef1bfb0296a9aeb6303624e

SHA1: 1622a09cf84031ee5204fd5ae01d37a22267c1d8

Uploaded At: March 03, 2019


Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
October 10, 2017, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
October 07, 2018, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
177 meeting groups, 927 households
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,022 women
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Efficacy intervention: 88 meeting groups assigned to treatment and 89 to control. Intra-household opposition intervention (cross-randomized): 463 households assigned to treatment and 464 to control.
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Women's employment is low in many developing countries. I test whether aspects of women's internal psychology constrain women's employment in India. I offer an intervention to increase generalized self-efficacy (GSE), or beliefs in own ability to attain desired outcomes. The effect on employment will depend on women's external realities; in particular, beliefs in ability may not affect employment if women do not actually have the ability to overcome opposition from their family members. I therefore cross-randomize the promotion of a women's employment opportunity to women's family members. The GSE intervention alone produces large and persistent increases in employment. The promotion intervention alone produces similar effects but the combination of the two produces no additional gain. Channels data suggest the GSE intervention works by leading women to exert effort to reach desired employment outcomes. These results suggest there exist internal constraints to women's employment in India. In a second experiment, I investigate why these internal constraints exist. I hypothesize that the typical economic experiences of women in my setting, and exclusion from the labor market in particular, produce low GSE. To test the causal effect of employment on GSE, I randomly assign job offers amongst women that enroll in an employment opportunity. Indeed, women who received a job offer have significantly higher GSE several months later. Taken together, these results provide important insights for understanding links between psychology and economics.
McKelway, Madeline. 2018. "Women's Self-Efficacy and Women's Employment: Experimental Evidence from India." Working Paper.

Reports & Other Materials