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Trial Title Conventions, Information Asymmetry, and Aspirations for New Social Roles: Field Experiment in an Agricultural Education Program in Liberia Conventions, Information Asymmetry, and Intergenerational Information Flow: Theory and Experiment in Liberia
Abstract Learning to take on new social roles is a critical juncture that depends upon interactions with others. Beliefs and perceptions shape the actualization of aspirations. Such actions in turn shape the aggregation of information in communities. This paper provides an informational perspective to the process of learning and interacting with socially important others: while I aspire to take on new social roles, there are unavoidable times when others cannot foresee changes in my attributes. Analogous to the analysis of markets in Akerlof (1970), I provide a heuristic framework of intentional interactions under social conventions. The framework helps understand the behavior of youth in an agricultural education program in Liberia, which aims to empower students as agents of diffusion while they learn low-cost, easy-to-use agricultural innovations in schools. According to our pilot survey and focus groups, students hesitate in reaching out to their elders in households because they anticipate elders would not believe in their changes in farming skills and attitudes; elders (typically parents) are not sure if students have paid attention to training in the program. I design a 2 x 2 randomized experiment among 1000 households with students in 50 schools that join the program in 2021. Our interventions encourage students and their elders to imagine, at the beginning of the program, the consequences of students' active participation in the program. In the first randomization, representative elders in half of the households are invited to treatment video sessions that summarize program impact on students’ farming skills, attitudes, and livelihoods from past participants. In the second randomization, we reveal positive expectations of household heads about students’ growth in attributes in 1 year to half of the students. Coupled with a general randomized evaluation of the program (AEARCTR-0006671), a baseline survey is scheduled in June - August 2021 to capture baseline characteristics of students and elders, their 1st and 2nd order beliefs about students' farming skills and attitudes, as well as short-term program impacts. Video sessions for elders and follow-up surveys (which include the revelation treatment) of students take place within 1 day after the baseline survey. We capture impacts on our subjects' forward-looking expectations and real-stake decisions immediately after the interventions. We plan to track, in a post-rainy-season survey and quarterly program monitoring data, students' level of participation in the program, acquisition of new farming practices, communication efforts with their elders, and initiatives in starting their farms outside schools. We will also track auxiliary outcomes in agricultural extension, youth empowerment, and education. It remains a puzzle how collective decisions upon private information are made in households and communities in developing countries. Recent evidence points to the interplay of social roles and individual incentives to transmit information. In the spirit of Akerlof (1970), this paper proposes a framework to understand three essential aspects of information aggregation, when there are information asymmetries between individuals under social conventions: (1) acquisition of attributes (e.g. skills); (2) efforts in information transmission (e.g. communication); and (3) resulting flow of information. The framework rationalizes mixed results in the literature, and highlights the tradeoffs in different approaches to informational interventions. Within the context of a school-based agricultural education program in Liberia that aims to empower students as agents of knowledge diffusion, I design a household-level experiment to study intergenerational information flow. The experiment (1) tests the existence of information asymmetries in crucial decisions; and (2) contrasts different approaches that induce information transmission in students' households and communities. This experiment is embedded in the context of a general randomized evaluation of the program (AEARCTR-0006671).
Last Published August 09, 2021 05:25 PM August 13, 2021 03:07 AM
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