Poverty and Migration in the Digital Age: Experimental Evidence on Mobile Banking in Bangladesh
Last registered on July 19, 2018


Trial Information
General Information
Poverty and Migration in the Digital Age: Experimental Evidence on Mobile Banking in Bangladesh
Initial registration date
July 11, 2018
Last updated
July 19, 2018 9:10 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
New York University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
World Bank
PI Affiliation
Millennium Challenge Corporation
PI Affiliation
New York University, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
PI Affiliation
New York University, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Mobile banking technology makes it cheaper and easier to move money across distances. Against a background of rapid urbanization in Bangladesh, we estimate the impact of mobile banking in a sample of "ultra-poor" rural households paired to relatives who migrated to find jobs in the capital. The study shows that diffusion of the gains from urbanization is constrained by barriers to remitting money. The technology substantially improved rural economic conditions by better connecting villagers to urban migrants, an idea that contrasts with (and complements) innovations like microfinance that focus on rural self-employment. Participants were trained on how to sign up for and use mobile banking accounts in a randomized encouragement design costing less than $12 per family. Active use of accounts increased substantially, from 22% in the rural control group to 70% in the rural treatment group, and urban-to-rural remittances increased by 30% one year later (relative to the control group). For active users, rural consumption increased by 7.5% and extreme poverty fell. Rural households borrowed less, saved and invested more, and fared better in the lean season. The rate of child labor fell, and we find weak but positive evidence that schooling improved. Rural health indicators were unchanged. Migrants, however, bore costs. They were slightly more likely to be in garment work, saved more, and were less likely to be poor. However, migrants actively using mobile banking reported worse physical and emotional health.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Lee, Jean et al. 2018. "Poverty and Migration in the Digital Age: Experimental Evidence on Mobile Banking in Bangladesh." AEA RCT Registry. July 19. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3149/history/31928
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Experimental Details
We provided a randomly-assigned treatment group in Bangladesh with training on bKash mobile financial services and facilitated account set-up if needed. The intervention consisted of a 30 to 45 minute training about how to sign up for and use the bKash service. This training was supplemented with basic technical assistance with enrollment in the bKash service. If requested, our field staff assisted with gathering the necessary documentation for signing up for bKash and completing the application form. A key reason that the intervention had a high potential impact is that mobile banking services in Bangladesh use Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) menus. The USSD menus allow mobile banking services to be used on any mobile device. The menus, however, are in English, creating a large hurdle for poorer villagers in Gaibandha with only basic levels of numeracy and literacy even in Bangla (Bengali). The intervention was designed to overcome the hurdle. It included teaching the basic steps and protocols of bKash use, together with practical, hands-on experience sending transfers at least five times to establish a degree of comfort. The training materials were based on marketing materials provided by bKash, simpli ed to increase accessibility. Since the phone menus are in English, we also provided menus translated into Bangla (Bengali).
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Remittances, consumption, poverty, borrowing, savings, self-employment, out-migration, child labor, education of children, physical and emotional health.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment took the form of a dual-site design. The two connected sites are: (1) Gaibandha district in Rangpur Division in northwest Bangladesh and (2) Dhaka Division, the administrative unit in which the capital is located. We followed migrants in Dhaka and their families in rural Gaibandha. Across urban migrant - rural household pairs, pairs were randomized into treatment and control.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Individual-level randomization (urban migrant - rural household pair).
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
815 urban migrant - rural household pairs.
Sample size: planned number of observations
815 urban migrant - rural household pairs.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
413 urban migrant - rural household pairs in the treatment group, 402 urban migrant - rural household pairs in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
New York University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers