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Rules of Thumb: Providing Timely Useful Financial Management Advice at Scale
Last registered on May 02, 2017


Trial Information
General Information
Rules of Thumb: Providing Timely Useful Financial Management Advice at Scale
Initial registration date
August 05, 2014
Last updated
May 02, 2017 1:43 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Microentrepreneurs in developing countries face complex financial management challenges. Many entrepreneurs do not have the financial skills to address these challenges and traditional classroom-based financial training has not been shown effective in changing behavior or improving financial outcomes. Wha t is the most effective way to equip microentrepreneurs with the necessary skills to address their financial management challenges? Traditional financial education curricula have shown very mixed results for improving knowledge and financial practices among microentrepreneurs. In this study, the researchers build on earlier work by one of the authors that shows the promise of using a simple, heuristics-based financial education curriculum. In the current project the researchers test whether it is feasible to communicate these heuristics via mobile phone messages in a scalable and sustainable fashion. Carefully designed messages that are simple to understand and adopt will be sent at particularly useful times to optimize effectiveness. The study will measure the impact of this strategy on the financial management behavior and business outcomes of microentrepreneurs.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Cole, Shawn and Antoinette Schoar. 2017. "Rules of Thumb: Providing Timely Useful Financial Management Advice at Scale." AEA RCT Registry. May 02. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.466-2.0.
Former Citation
Cole, Shawn, Antoinette Schoar and Antoinette Schoar. 2017. "Rules of Thumb: Providing Timely Useful Financial Management Advice at Scale." AEA RCT Registry. May 02. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/466/history/17096.
Experimental Details
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The outcomes that will be studied through this experiment:
Can rules-of-thumb delivered over the phone be efficient in fostering behavioral change with microentrepreneurs?
What effects do rules-of-thumb and mobile-based financial training have on firm profitability and productivity, in the short and medium run?
What is the mechanism by which rules-of-thumb leads to different outcomes?
Are there heterogeneous treatment effects of such a service?
Can mobile-based advice for MSMEs be developed as a sustainable business model?
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We will be using a randomized control trial. The treatment group will receive business advice via mobile phones, while the control group will not receive any business advice. The treatment will comprise of easy-to-remember and actionable heuristics on financial and business management. We will deliver this set of advice through text and voice messages sent directly to the mobile phones of the microentrepreneurs. The core of our work will focus on how to deliver rules-of-thumb content through an easy to deliver mobile platform. The impact of business advice will be measured through baseline, midline and endline surveys that collect business and household financial data.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization will be done in the office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Randomization will be done at the level of the individual.
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
1950 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1950 individuals
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Study has received IRB approval. Details not available.
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
November 30, 2015, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
March 05, 2016, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
2,207 individuals
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
1,041 treatment and 1,002 control Rest of the businesses were inactive. Note that the baseline number of units was 2,474 individuals as compared to the 2,207 individuals. Additionally, note that attrition was correlated with treatment status as 267 of the businesses were shut down with 64% (171) from the treatment group and 36% (116) from the control group.
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)