Does Certification Increase Returns to Human Capital? Evidence from an Audit Study in India

Last registered on July 09, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Does Certification Increase Returns to Human Capital? Evidence from an Audit Study in India
Initial registration date
July 08, 2021

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
July 09, 2021, 12:47 PM EDT

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



Primary Investigator

UC Riverside

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
UC Riverside

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
India has experienced a fourfold increase in tertiary enrollment over two decades, which has coincided with high rates of unemployment for college graduates. In particular, it is difficult for students to convey information about their human capital to employers if they graduate from colleges that are perceived to be of low quality. As a result, standardized exit exams created by private companies have become widespread. Such certification tests can improve labor market outcomes by allowing potential employees, especially those who are recent graduates, to credibly indicate their level of competence. Using a correspondence/audit experiment, we study the following questions: (i) What is the value to recent graduates of certification (and college quality) as a signal in the labor market? (ii) How does the certification signal affect outcomes for job seekers depending on degree type, particularly for those with a low-quality degree? (iii) For what score levels is it optimal for job seekers to reveal their certification results to potential employers? (iv) Do firms interpret gender as a signal in this setting? Conditional on observing gender discrimination, can certification mitigate its impact?

As a companion to the audit study RCT, we also plan to conduct a short survey with a sample of hiring managers. This survey will allow us to understand how hiring managers view certification tests and, more generally, make decisions about who to hire.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Batheja, Deepshikha, Sarojini Hirshleifer and Opinder Kaur. 2021. "Does Certification Increase Returns to Human Capital? Evidence from an Audit Study in India ." AEA RCT Registry. July 09.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The outcome for the audit study will be the number of call-backs/response from employers in the form of interview invitations. Another outcome will be any response, including requests to send more information.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The RCT will be in the form of what is typically called a correspondence/audit study in which we will send applications/resumes from recent graduates in response to job postings by employers.
Experimental Design Details
We will rely on a 3x2 design with two types of treatments. For the certification treatment, resumes will be assigned to one of three arms: above average, below average or no certification score. The college quality treatment will have two arms: resumes will have the name of either a tier-2 or tier-3 college. We will also cross-randomize the gender of the applicant.
Randomization Method
Randomization is conducted in STATA.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
This is not a cluster-randomized trial
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
3,000 per treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
This sample size will detect a 1.5-1.6 percentage point effect assuming a 4% mean response rate at 80% power. This effect size is conservative for the literature, but is seen in Carranza et al. (2020) and Zhou et al. (2013). The base-rate of 4% is appropriate for India as in Banerjee et al. (2009) at 80%. We plan to send 12 resumes to each employer, balanced across certification scores (high/low) and college quality (Tier-2/Tier-3 college-type) as well gender (male/female). Therefore, in order to send 18,000 resumes, we will have to apply to 1500 jobs.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
UC Riverside Socio-Behavioral
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


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