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Beliefs About Need and Informal Help -- A Field Experiment with Unconditional Cash Transfers
Initial registration date
July 17, 2020
July 20, 2020 11:39 AM EDT
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
This trial will randomly assign approximately 5,000 low-income individuals in the United States to receive either no cash, $500, or $2,000 unconditionally. While the primary purpose of the trial is to test the effects of these cash transfers on a range of financial, psychological, and health outcomes (preregistered separately on this registry), this preregistration discusses how the trial will be used to test a different research question. In particular, it will test to what extent one’s own level of resources or need for help affects one’s beliefs about others’ need for help. (To see the primary preregistration, please see "A Randomized Controlled Trial Varying Unconditional Cash Transfer Amounts in the United States," by Oliver Hauser, Jon Jachimowicz, Julian Jamison, and Ania Jaroszewicz.)
Jaroszewicz, Ania. 2020. "Beliefs About Need and Informal Help -- A Field Experiment with Unconditional Cash Transfers." AEA RCT Registry. July 20.
This trial entails randomly assigning approximately 5,000 low-income individuals in the US to one of three conditions: Control, Small Cash, or Large Cash. The Control group will not receive any payments beyond those given as compensation for their study participation. The Small Cash group will be given a one-time unconditional cash transfer (UCT) of $500. The Large Cash group will be given a UCT of $2,000. The trial will be conducted in partnership with a non-profit organization, which will recruit participants and administer the treatments.
In addition, each of these groups will be cross-randomized to either have access to the partner non-profit organization’s online platform or not. This platform aims to connect households receiving help from the organization to support social capital creation and maintenance. However, the primary analysis will collapse across these groups, examining only the main effects of varying UCT amounts. Note that this trial is primarily being run to test the effects of the UCTs on financial, psychological, and health outcomes over time. (To see the primary preregistration, please see "A Randomized Controlled Trial Varying Unconditional Cash Transfer Amounts in the United States," by Oliver Hauser, Jon Jachimowicz, Julian Jamison, and Ania Jaroszewicz.) The outcomes and analyses described in this preregistration are for a separate paper.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
There are two relevant sets of participants. One set of participants, who will be recruited through a channel other than the RCT described here, are called the “outside participants.” The second set of participants, who will be recruited through the RCT described here, are called the “focal participants.” The focal participants will be asked to estimate the outside participants’ answers to a question.
In particular, all focal participants will be given a brief description of an outside participant. They will be told that the outside participant was asked whether they expect to have enough money to pay for everything their household needs to pay for over the next 30 days, and if not, how much more money they would need. The primary dependent measure of interest in this study is the focal participants’ estimates of the outside participants’ answers.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
There will be two secondary outcomes of interest. First, all focal participants will be asked the same question the outside participants were asked: how much more money they themselves would need to pay for all of their household’s needs over the next 30 days.
Second, focal participants will also be asked how much help they want to offer to the outside participant. This will be measured by how much of a potential $1,000 prize they want to offer to the outside participant if they win a lottery we are conducting.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
All (focal) participants will be adults living in the United States who have signed up to receive financial assistance from the non-profit organization. To be eligible, participants must be low-income (defined in varying ways depending on the region and funder restrictions), have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and have not previously received funding from the partnering non-profit organization.
Participants consenting to participate in the study will be asked to complete a profile survey (which will ask about basic demographics) and a baseline survey. Participants who complete both surveys will then be randomly assigned to either receive no UCT (“Control” group), a $500 UCT (“Small Cash” group), or a $2,000 UCT (“Large Cash” group). All UCTs will be paid approximately 3.5 weeks after the baseline survey is completed.
Approximately one week after the UCT payments are made (if any), all participants will be asked to complete the main survey of interest. They will be given up to 10 days to complete this survey. Among many other questions (again, please see the main preregistration for details), this survey will contain 3 questions (question #1 through #3 below), which I will use to answer the research question described in this preregistration. All participants will be asked:
#1. What is their own need?
#2. What is the need of an “outside” participant (another person not in this sample)? #3. How much help do they want to give the outside participant? The questions will be presented in one of two orders. Some focal participants will be randomized to the following question order: reporting their own need (question #1 above), estimating the outside participant’s need (#2), and finally reporting how much help they want to offer to the outside participant (#3). Other focal participants will be randomized to a different question order: estimating the outside participant’s need (#2), reporting how much help they want to offer to the outside participant (#3), and finally reporting their own need (question #1 above). Answers to the beliefs question will be incentivized for accuracy. The offering question will be incentive-compatible.
Participants will be paid $20 for each survey they complete, plus an additional $20 completion bonus if they complete all the surveys. In addition, participants will receive 2 lottery tickets for completing the profile and first main survey, and one lottery ticket for each survey they complete after that. They receive an additional 5 lottery tickets if they complete all the surveys. Each lottery ticket is worth a chance at winning an additional $1,000 prize. Payments for each completed survey will be made immediately after the survey is completed. The completion bonus and lottery payments (if any) will be made after the fourth survey. A third party organization will deposit both the UCTs and survey payments directly into participants’ bank accounts, the information for which must be provided at sign up.
In addition, all participants will also be randomly assigned to either have access to the organization’s online platform or not. This platform aims to connect households receiving help from the organization to support social capital creation and maintenance. However, my primary specifications will collapse across these groups and only examine the main effects of the UCT amounts.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization will be done in an office using a computer program.
The randomization will be done at the individual level.
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
We aim for a final sample of approximately 4,502 participants. To account for attrition (assumed to be 10%), we are asking the partner organization to enroll approximately 5,002 participants. However, the exact number of participants the partner organization ultimately recruits and we analyze will depend on potential participants’ interest in enrollment, retention, and our budgetary constraints. The partner organization will recruit participants until we have run out of money (in our case, $2,500,000) or the participant pool has dried up, whichever comes first.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Same as the planned number of clusters.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Given that the Large Cash group is 2.5 times as expensive as the Small Cash group, and the Small Cash group is 5 times as expensive as the Control group, we employ unequal sample sizes to maximize power given our budget (Guo & Luh, 2009; Schouten, 1999; Torgerson & Campbell, 1997). Collapsing across the online platform randomizations, we aim for a final sample of 2,768 individuals in the Control group (initial sample of 3,076 individuals), 1,130 in the Small Cash group (initial sample of 1,256 individuals), and 604 in the Large Cash group (initial sample of 671). (Splitting across the online platform randomizations, each of these groups would be divided by two.) The exact number of participants will ultimately depend on participants’ interest, our ability to retain them in the study over time, and our budget constraints.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
I calculate the minimum detectable effect sizes using the final sample sizes (post-attrition), an alpha level of 0.05, and a 90% target power level. I assume equal standard deviations across groups. Using these parameters, I estimate a minimum detectable effect size of 0.10 for testing the difference between the Control group and any of the cash groups, 0.11 for testing the difference between the Control group and the Small Cash group, 0.15 for testing the difference between the Control group and the Large Cash group, and 0.16 for testing the difference between the Small Cash group and the Large Cash group.
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
Harvard University-Area Committee on the Use of Human SubjectsBoard
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number