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Two carrots and no stick – the Nijmegen social assistance experiment
Last registered on June 10, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Two carrots and no stick – the Nijmegen social assistance experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004250
Initial registration date
May 29, 2019
Last updated
June 10, 2019 6:40 PM EDT
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Radboud University, Radboud Social Cultural Research
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Radboud Social Cultural Research
PI Affiliation
Radboud Social Cultural Research
PI Affiliation
Radboud Social Cultural Research
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2017-10-01
End date
2021-09-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In the Netherlands, a number of municipalities got permission from the national government to experiment with the welfare system. The city of Nijmegen is one of these municipalities. In the regular welfare regime, the last safety net of the welfare state is social assistance: a means tested benefit for people who lack other income (for example for people who lose their job and whose unemployment benefits have ended, or refugees who are granted an official status). People who receive social assistance in the Netherlands are bound to strict obligations regarding reintegration in the labor market, and sanctions if they fail to live up to them. Under the experimental regime, social assistance recipients can be allowed to keep an amount of money, if they earn any in addition to their allowance. Further, the strict rules on reintegration can be loosened. The municipality created two combination treatments based on this, that differ substantially from the regular regime. The core difference is that the experimental treatments are based on giving recipients more autonomy and trust. This is expected to have a positive effect on labor market outcomes (work, part-time work, entrepreneurship), participation, health and well being.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Betkó, János et al. 2019. "Two carrots and no stick – the Nijmegen social assistance experiment." AEA RCT Registry. June 10. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4250-1.0.
Former Citation
Betkó, János et al. 2019. "Two carrots and no stick – the Nijmegen social assistance experiment." AEA RCT Registry. June 10. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4250/history/47791.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The municipality of Nijmegen chose for two combination treatments, in which a different approach to re-integration is coupled with the opportunity to earn extra money in addition to the social assistance payment. In the regular regime, people are allowed to keep 25% of the money they earn, up to a maximum of approximately 200 euro per month, for a maximum of six months during their entire social assistance spell. In the experimental treatment, participants are allowed to keep an extra during the entire duration of the experiment (22 months, from 1 December 2017 up to 1 October 2019), they can keep op to 50% of their earnings, up until the same maximum (approx. 200 euro).
1) The first treatment group is allowed to keep extra money from earnings. In addition, all obligations regarding reintegration are cancelled, as are the related fines for non-compliance. Obligations that are cancelled are for example a minimum amount of job applications per week, the obligation to accept any job offer and the obligation to dress in an appropriate way when looking for work. If they want to, participants are allowed to ask for assistance of the local government or the regional re-integration organization in the search for a job.
2) The second treatment group is allowed to keep extra money from earnings. In addition, a special re-integration trajectory has been designed for them. Participation in this trajectory is obligatory. All participants are divided in groups of 10-12 people, who receive a group coaching session every month, for the duration of the experiment. The personal goal of the treatment is set by the participants themselves, and can be either work, part-time work, entrepreneurship or voluntary work. The group coaching is designed to have participants first gain more insight in themselves (situation, wishes and possibilities), and only after that to give them more tools to present themselves (pitching, networking).
3) The third group is the control group. These people applied for the experiment, but were randomized in the group that gets the same treatment as all other people on social assistance.
4) Finally, all people who were eligible to participate but didn’t apply function as reference group on primary outcomes.
Intervention Start Date
2017-12-01
Intervention End Date
2020-01-01
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The number of people moving from welfare to work, either through earning enough to end the welfare benefit or earning an income in addition to the welfare benefit.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary outcomes are health, experienced stress, well-being, participation, happiness, and trust.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment is a cooperation between the municipality of Nijmegen and Radboud Social Cultural Research. It started on December first 2017 and ends October first 2019. One group of participants entered the experiment December 2017, another wave entered April first 2018. All applicants have been randomly distributed over the three groups (two treatment and one control). The target population consists of people on social assistance, with some groups excluded. This are most notably people under 27, people who would reach their retirement age before the experiment would end, refugees who hadn’t received an official status yet, and people who already received an intensive re-integration treatment. Recruitment of participants has been done through letters, mails, social media, an animation video, personal contact, flyers, posters, newsletters, local media and meetings in different parts of the municipality. Data collection consists of registration data (from the municipality, the regional re-integration office and the national bureau of statistics), survey data (baseline, after 1 year, after 2 years and after 3 years, the last one being done a year after the experiment has ended), and qualitative data (interviews and focus groups with both participants, coaches and other people involved).
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
All participants have been given a random number between 0 and 1 by SPSS, where the lowest 1/3rd became group 1, the middle 1/3rd became group 2 and the upper 1/3rd became group 3 (control).
Randomization Unit
Individual.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
0
Sample size: planned number of observations
348 welfare claimants.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment 1 122 welfare claimants
Treatment 2 119 welfare claimants
Control 107 welfare claimants
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The minimum sample size was chosen based on a set of power tests; originally four groups were planned (a third treatment group which would only be allowed to earn the additional income), but due to a lower number of applicants a three group set up was decided upon to meet the minimum sample sizes.
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Radboud Social Cultural Research Advisory Board
IRB Approval Date
2017-10-05
IRB Approval Number
N/A