The Psychosocial Impacts of Forced Idleness

Last registered on March 06, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

The Psychosocial Impacts of Forced Idleness
Initial registration date
June 11, 2020

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
June 12, 2020, 12:56 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
March 06, 2021, 11:52 AM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.



Primary Investigator

Harvard Business School

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Harvard School of Public Health
PI Affiliation
American University
PI Affiliation
World Bank

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Social scientists have long posited that employment may deliver psychological utility beyond the value of income alone. Existing literature, however, suffers from problems of selection into employment and an inability to disentangle the pecuniary and non-pecuniary mechanisms driving wellbeing. This paper presents a causal estimate of the psychosocial benefits of employment in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. We engage 745 individuals in a field experiment with three arms: (1) a control arm, in which no work is offered; (2) a cash arm, in which no work is offered but a weekly fee is provided; and (3) a gainful employment arm, in which work is offered and individuals are paid weekly the approximate equivalent of that in the cash arm. Building on existing observations in psychology, we further investigate the causal roles of past trauma and future uncertainty in mediating the impact of employment on psychosocial wellbeing.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Hussam, Reshmaan et al. 2021. "The Psychosocial Impacts of Forced Idleness." AEA RCT Registry. March 06.
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Experimental Details



Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We have seven primary outcomes of interest: time-use, mental health, stability, physical health, cognitive function, economic decision making, and willingness to work. Please refer to the attached PAP for details on each.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Our main intervention is providing work tasks to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

We want to identify the impact of providing work tasks on psychosocial wellbeing (benchmarked against the impact of providing a cash transfer). We also want to determine whether the effects of providing work tasks vary with: (i) uncertainty in work-schedule (mimicking daily labor) and (ii) experience of past violence.

We have four treatment arms:
1. Control group (C): individuals receive a small weekly payment (50 Taka ~ 0.60 USD)
2. Treatment 1 (T1): individuals receive a large weekly payment (450 Taka ~ 5.30 USD)
3. Treatment 2 (T2 - Certainty): individuals are offered the opportunity to work for pay. They receive 150 Taka (1.77 USD) per day of work and a pre-filled calendar that highlights the days they are supposed to work.
4. Treatment 3 (T3 - Uncertainty): individuals are also offered the opportunity to work for pay, receiving 150 Taka (1.77 USD) per day of work. They do not receive a calendar with pre-filled dates -- they are informed every week about the days they would be hired for the following week.

To estimate the impact of receiving a large amount of cash (as opposed to a small amount), we compare outcomes from T1 to C. To estimate the impact of work (as opposed to receiving a small amount of cash), we compare the outcomes of T2 and T3 to C.

To estimate how certainty mediates the impact of work, we compare outcomes of T2 to T1 and T3 to T1.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization is done in the office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Our main randomization is done at the block level (five households per block). Various sub-randomizations (as described in detail in the attached PAP) are conducted at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
33 blocks in control, 33 blocks in cash, 87 blocks in work-for-cash
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Details provided in attached PAP.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Harvard University-Area Committee on the Use of Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

The Psychosocial Impacts of Forced Idleness

MD5: 5cfd2aeb4c9991b576993ac3c1f431e6

SHA1: f80b1e37a53d729e28dd70cf7bcfc911422c6ea1

Uploaded At: March 06, 2021


Post Trial Information

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Is the intervention completed?
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials