Trouble with Zero: The Limits of Subsidizing Technology Adoption

Last registered on November 02, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Trouble with Zero: The Limits of Subsidizing Technology Adoption
Initial registration date
November 02, 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
November 02, 2020, 8:45 AM EST

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



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Johns Hopkins University
PI Affiliation
UC Santa Barbara

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
In this project, we use a randomized control trial to test whether paying an initial price of zero (a 100% subsidy) relative to a non-zero, partially subsidized price affects long-run technology adoption among smallholder farmers. Subsidies can encourage short-run adoption, provide farmers with the opportunity to learn from experience, and potentially lead to increased adoption in the long-run. Conversely, long-run adoption may be lower if large initial subsidies result in a lower willingness to pay (WTP) later due to behavioral phenomena such as price reference dependence or price anchoring. The price anchoring effect may be particularly salient if the initial price paid is zero. To test the impact of subsidies on long-run adoption, we randomize farmers' initial prices for improved grain storage technology. One year later, we elicit willingness-to-pay from all farmers for a second round of technology purchases. We also collect data on relevant grain storage outcomes and farmers' experience with the technology to test for differences in the usage and perceived and actual benefits across subsidy levels.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Baylis, Kathy, Hemant Pullabhotla and Pallavi Shukla. 2020. "Trouble with Zero: The Limits of Subsidizing Technology Adoption." AEA RCT Registry. November 02.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Technology usage, grain storage, grain sales, grain consumption, grain damage
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Farmers in first group of villages received technology at a randomized subsidy level using a Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) auction. The second group received the technology through a flat-rate subsidize price. Farmers in the last group received the technology for free. In year two, farmers from all three treatment groups participated in a Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) auction and willingness-to-pay was elicited.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization of villages done in office by a computer; price levels in Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) auction determined by price drawn by participant.
Randomization Unit
Clustered at village level
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
24 villages
Sample size: planned number of observations
1200 farmers
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
750 farmers in BDM auction group, 200 in flat-rate group, 250 in zero price group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

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

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
August 01, 2018, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
December 01, 2018, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1083 farmers from 24 villages
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1083 farmers from 24 villages
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
633 farmers in BDM auction group, 200 in flat-rate group, 250 in zero price group
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials