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Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment
Initial registration date
May 24, 2017
May 25, 2017 5:42 PM EDT
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Other Primary Investigator(s)
University of Toronto
Harvard Business School
The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania
Additional Trial Information
Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, secondary school completion is low, and female educational attainment lags male educational attainment. Many governments and NGOs try to address this issue by providing material support such as free uniforms and scholarships. We explore a potential alternative tool for increasing female human capital investment. A recent branch of economics, pioneered by James Heckman, has posited that differences in long-term outcomes (including wages and educational attainment) are in part driven by differences in non-cognitive skills (Heckman and Rubinstein, 2001). Non-cognitive skills are typically both difficult to measure and change, particularly among older children, but neuroscience research in recent years has shown that interpersonal skills may be best learned by early adolescents (Choudhury et al., 2006). If this is the case, programs that affect interpersonal skills may offer policymakers an unusual opportunity to improve non-cognitive skills within the school system. Motivated by this literature, we test whether improving interpersonal skills can play a role in increasing female education. We conducted an experiment in which we randomly provided eighth grade girls in Zambia with a two-week, after-school negotiation skills training. To disentangle the effects of the negotiation skills from the effects of participating in an all-girls training with a female, Zambian role model, we further randomized some girls to receive a placebo training (called “safe space”) where girls met to play games under the supervision of the mentor but did not receive negotiation skills training. We then collected data on the effect of negotiation in two ways. First, we conducted a lab-in-the-field investment game to better understand how negotiation affected parents’ investment decisions. Second, we collected administrative data on girls’ educational and life outcomes such as school fee payment, attendance, grades, and pregnancy status up to when the girls would be enrolled in tenth grade.
Ashraf, Nava et al. 2017. "Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment." AEA RCT Registry. May 25.
About 2400 eighth grade girls from across 41 schools in Lusaka were recruited. Girls in 29 schools were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups, as described below. Twelve schools, selected to match twelve treatment schools, were kept as pure controls—i.e., the girls in the pure control schools were surveyed but none received negotiation training or after school activities.
An information treatment was randomly administered to half of the program participants in each school. Within treatment schools, the information session was cross-randomized with the three intervention treatments:
1. Safe Space group: Girls received a free lunch on session days, notebook, pens, and any other materials distributed throughout the project. They participated in six after-school sessions over two weeks, during which they could play games, study or do homework, or just talk with other girls. Trained female Zambian role models supervised these sessions.
2. Negotiation group: Girls received a free lunch on session days, notebook, pens, and any other materials distributed throughout the project. They participated in six sessions with female role models covering training on negotiation and inter-personal communication.
3. Control group within treatment schools: Girls assigned to this group did not participate in an afterschool program in 2013 but were offered the negotiation program following the conclusion of the midline survey.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
girl's capabilities, self-perception, rates of pregnancy, school attendance and advancement, STI/HIV rates
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
The Negotiation Curriculum is structured by four principles:
1. “Me” - identifying one’s own interests and options in conflict situations
2. “You” - identifying the other person’s interests, needs, and perspective 3. “Together” - identifying shared interests and small trades 4. “Build” - developing win-win solutions
The curriculum lays out certain situations in which it is necessary to be patient, or “Take 5,” as well as those in which the only outcome to keep the girl safe and healthy is to walk away and not negotiate. Outcome measures will measure both the size and source of impact, capturing transformations in the girl’s capabilities, her interactions with others, and the outcomes of those interactions:
- Survey data: Self-perception, outcomes of arguments and discussion, intra-household allocations, and sexual risk exposure. Impact on the family measured through parent and sibling surveys to see if gains in participant well-being come at the expense of other family members.
- Real outcomes (administrative data from schools): Rates of pregnancy, school attendance and advancement, and potentially STI/HIV rates - Behavioral measures: Take-up of an additional opportunity that requires child-parent negotiation, altered willingness to pay for schooling by parents, responses to negotiation scenario or partner game.
Experimental Design Details
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
41 basic schools in Lusaka: 29 of them were randomly selected as “intervention schools” and the remaining 12 were "pure control" schools.
Sample size: planned number of observations
3146 female primary school students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Nothing: 384 girls
Info Session: 396 girls
Negotiation: 391 girls
Safe Space: 386 girls
Info Session X Negotiation: 410 girls
Info Session X Safe Space: 399 girls
Pure Control Schools:
Info Session: 390
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
INNOVATIONS FOR POVERTY ACTION IRB – USA
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
August 01, 2013, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
April 01, 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
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Nothing: 274 girls
Info Session: 272 girls
Negotiation: 289 girls
Safe Space: 300 girls
Info Session X Negotiation: 304 girls
Info Session X Safe Space: 282 girls
Pure Control Schools:
Info Session: 279 girls
Nothing: 281 girls
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Preliminary Results, Do Not Cite
Ashraf, Nava, Natalie Bau, Corinne Low, and Kathleen Mc Grinn."Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment." Report, March 2017.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS
"Negotiating a Better Future" HBS summary
Ashraf, Nava et al."Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment," IPA Ð Zambia: Girls Negotiation, June 30, 2011.