The Wageningen Social Assistance Benefits Experiment
Last registered on May 13, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
The Wageningen Social Assistance Benefits Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004170
Initial registration date
May 09, 2019
Last updated
May 13, 2019 11:59 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Tilburg University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-11-01
End date
2020-02-29
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In the Netherlands, dissatisfaction with the current scheme of social welfare has led various Dutch cities to run field experiments to test out new ways of delivering income support to its citizens. Among them is the City of Wageningen where the study goes by the name ‘Bijstand op Maat’ (English: Tailored Social Assistance) and includes from October 2017 on 394 recipients of social welfare (or social assistance). For the duration of the trial, job search requirements and welfare sanctions tied to income support will be eliminated to make room for more autonomy (treatment 1). Other aspects include a more demand-oriented approach in supporting welfare recipients (treatment 2) and increasing financial incentives to take up paid work together with intensive coaching (treatment 3). The study is set up as a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with interventions running from November 2017 to September 2019. Outcomes of interest are differences in the uptake of paid work (full time and part time), societal participation and social activation, participants’ health and well-being, participants’ satisfaction with the new scheme, as well as their financial situation.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Muffels, Ruud. 2019. "The Wageningen Social Assistance Benefits Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. May 13. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4170/history/46504
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
This study includes three treatment conditions, one control condition, and a reference group. In the control condition, claimants are subject to the rules and regulation of the Dutch status quo social welfare regime. It is instructive to briefly introduce the status quo regime. Social welfare in the Netherlands is a non-contributory transfer program that provides monthly income support to poor households identified based on a means and work test. The regulations are extensive and complex, which is why we focus on the most important rules and regulations. The regime foresees a monthly transfer payment of maximum 992 EUR for a single-person household. On top of that welfare, claimants may be eligible for child, housing and healthcare allowances. The policy is designed as a temporary safety net aiming to deliver income support until recipients can provide for their own income again (mostly by finding employment). Accordingly, welfare recipients have to comply with certain rules, such as writing application letters, accepting job offers or following skill-development programs. Recipients that fail to comply with the rules may be sanctioned by freezing or cutting their monthly payment. Exemptions apply to those who are incapacitated for work or face severe health problems. Local governments (municipalities and regional councils) are charged with the task of executing the scheme.

In the three treatment conditions, the rules and regulations are varied. The three interventions tested are: (1) Self in action: claimants are exempted from the usual obligations to maintain their benefit, such as applying for jobs or joining reintegration programs; (2) Extra guidance: claimants receive extra support through intensive coaching and mediation from the welfare agency (Municipality of Wageningen); (3) Work pays: claimants are offered intensive coaching and have extended earnings release (benefit retention) from part-time or full-time work. Additionally, we use administrative data to follow a reference group of randomly selected claimants who were not invited to participate in the trial.
Intervention Start Date
2017-11-01
Intervention End Date
2019-09-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary outcome indicator concerns differences in the uptake of paid work (full time and part-time).
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
The uptake of paid work will be measured using administrative micro-data from Statistics Netherlands.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Our secondary outcome indicators are (1) societal participation and social activation, (2) participants’ health and well-being, (3) participants’ satisfaction with the scheme, and (4) recipients’ financial situation.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Societal participation and social activation are measured through self-reported survey data (e.g. hours of volunteer work). Participants’ health and well-being are measured using medical data from Statistics Netherlands (e.g. drug use) and self-reported survey data (e.g. Mental Health Inventory 5). Participants’ satisfaction with the scheme is measured through self-reported survey data. Participants’ financial situation is measured using administrative data and self-reported survey data.
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment is a cooperation between Tilburg University and the Municipality of Wageningen. Participating welfare claimants are randomly assigned to the four different conditions described above (three treatments groups and one control group). The target population for the experiment consists of all welfare claimants in Wageningen, unless participating is a risk or not possible. Claimants are randomized over the four groups (three treatments groups and one control group). After this randomized distribution claimants were invited to participate for that specific treatment during a large-scale information and enrolment campaign. Participation had to be confirmed by signing an informed consent sheet. Participation is voluntary, which means that participants can decide to drop out at any time. In total, 410 claimants have signed up to take part in the study, which makes up for around 50% of the targeted population, and 394 are those who did not withdraw. Data is collected using administrative data as well as surveys. Data collection takes place at three points in time: Oct – Nov 2017 (baseline), Oct - Nov 2018 (midline) and Aug – Sep 2019 (endline).
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
After selection of the target group, the randomization is done in office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Individuals
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
0
Sample size: planned number of observations
300
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment 1: 99 claimants; Treatment 2: 111 claimants; Treatment 3: 93 claimants; Control: 91 claimants.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The minimum sample size was chosen based on a power test.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number