We will conduct a randomized evaluation in Ghana that addresses the following research questions:
1) What are the effects of weekly mobile money cash transfers on COVID-19 related health behaviors?
2) What are the effects of the transfers on welfare (e.g., consumption, psychological distress, and physical health)?
3) How and to what extend do the transfers influence perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly the extent of risks perceived by the respondent?
4) How do effects differ across rural versus urban status and pre-treatment expenditure level?
Addressing these questions will allow us to contribute to scholarship in the behavioral, development, and health subfields of economics, and also to test the effectiveness of a policy tool (i.e., mobile money cash transfers) within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. For our sample, we have selected 2,500 households from the nationally representative Ghana Socioeconomic Panel Survey. We anticipate that roughly 1,500 of these households will be eligible for participation.
These households will be randomized evenly into two experimental conditions: a treatment group and a control group. Randomization will be stratified by the rural versus urban status of the community in which the household lives, and the household’s reported monthly food expenditures in 2019. The treatment group will be designated to receive a mobile money cash transfer of GHS 90 per week for eight weeks beginning immediately after the baseline survey. The control group will be designated to receive only a single transfer of GHS 90, to be sent immediately after the baseline survey.
Innovations for Poverty Action staff members will contact a member of each household. Those who agree to participate and who are eligible (they must have an MTN mobile money account) will be added to our sample. Willing and eligible participants will be added to our sample, given a baseline survey, and informed of the cash transfers they should expect (depending on the experimental group they had been randomized into). All households will receive a transfer of GHS 90 following the first survey. Treatment households will then be sent GHS 90 once per week for the following seven weeks, while the control group will not receive further mobile money cash transfers. All respondents receive GHS 5 in phone credit as compensation for their participation in the survey. Biweekly followup surveys will enable us to estimate treatment effects on the study's outcomes of interest.
Finally, we plan to conduct a long-term follow up survey during the spring of 2021.
Our main estimates will be obtained by the following regression specification
y_(i,t)= α + β_1 y_(i,0) + β_2 Treat_(i,t) + β_3 X_i + δ_s + γ_d + μ_t + ϵ_(i,t)
Where y_(i,t) is the outcome of interest for respondent i at time t, y_(i,0) is the outcome for respondent i drawn from the baseline survey, Treat_(i,t) is the respondent’s treatment status, X_i is a vector of controls including gender and age of the household head and number of household members, and where δ_s γ_d , and μ_t are strata, district, and survey wave fixed effects respectively. We will use robust standard errors, clustered at the individual respondent level. Estimates will be obtained from the post-baseline surveys. The first post-baseline survey will capture anticipation effects, since households in both experimental group will have received transfers and the only difference for treatment households at this point is that they will have been informed that they will receive additional transfers. Estimates from subsequent surveys will include the effects of the transfers.