Does Improving Destination Food Security Increase Migration? Experimental Evidence from the Indian Public Distribution System

Last registered on October 20, 2021


Trial Information

General Information

Does Improving Destination Food Security Increase Migration? Experimental Evidence from the Indian Public Distribution System
Initial registration date
October 17, 2021
Last updated
October 20, 2021, 10:36 AM EDT



Primary Investigator

University of Rochester

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
The World Bank
PI Affiliation
The World Bank
PI Affiliation
The World Bank

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Many developing-economy labor markets feature persistent spatial gaps in real income, which are substantial even after accounting for workers’ skills. This suggests that labor mobility is too low to capture the economic benefits of migration. A possible explanation is that migration is risky, particularly for poor households. Social protection programs thus have the potential to facilitate migration by easing financial constraints. We study the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India, which entitles 66% of the population to subsidized food grain. We randomly inform a representative set of around 70,000 beneficiary households across 18 Indian states about a recent scheme to allow migrants to collect food ration across the country, rather than being restricted to a PDS shop in their hometown. Data we collected prior to the experiment show that awareness of the program is extremely low. We will test whether learning about ration portability increases migration and improves economic well-being.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Baseler, Travis et al. 2021. "Does Improving Destination Food Security Increase Migration? Experimental Evidence from the Indian Public Distribution System." AEA RCT Registry. October 20.
Experimental Details


Our intervention involves a single treatment group and a control group. Households in our treatment group will be read a script during the CMIE survey. The intervention will be delivered during surveys lasting from October to December 2021. The script includes basic information about the ONORC scheme, including that their ration allowance is portable across district and state lines, information on which states have joined the ONORC program by the time of the survey, information on the documents required to claim ration outside of their designated PDS shop, and information on government offices responsible for resolving ration access issues and the phone number of a government helpline dedicated to ration portability. The script will be read by a CMIE enumerator, and an information sheet will be left with the respondent. We will also provide these households with access to an information hotline, which they can call to obtain local information (phone numbers and/or addresses) on ration shops across 29 states. We processed and uploaded individual ration shop information to Mapbox and Google Earth so that hotline staff can search for ration shops within or near the caller’s locality of interest. The hotline will be staffed by research assistants, who can also answer basic questions about ration portability. Hotline access will last for 5 months after the beginning of the intervention (from October 2021 to March 2022).
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Total emigration, family economic well-being
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We will measure total emigration as the number of individuals who are either baseline or new emigrants. We will also report a dummy measure equal to 1 if any family member is a baseline or new emigrant. We will analyze an economic well-being index comprising secondary outcomes 6--11, constructed as in Anderson 2008.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Knowledge of ration portability, planned new emigration, new emigration, urban emigration, inter-state and inter-district emigration, family earned income, family total consumption, occupational upgrading, subjective financial well-being, food security, ration claiming, job search efforts, remittances.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
See attached pre-analysis plan.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We will conduct our intervention with a subset of the survey sample covered by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), which has collected panel data on a nationally representative sample of approximately 170,000 households since 2014. We will add a module on PDS portability to CMIE's questionnaire for a random subset of their sample. This will enable us to conduct an information intervention and utilize the rich panel data that CMIE regularly collects on employment, migration, and welfare, at minimal cost and at a large scale.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Treatment status was assigned at the cluster level using a stratified permutation method. Strata were formed from the following features: state identifier, an urban dummy, a dummy for clusters with an above-median share of households that had sent an emigrant anywhere since 2017, and a dummy for clusters with an above-median poverty rate (defined as being below the 40th percentile of per-adult-equivalent household consumption). The Stata command randtreat was used, assigning misfits using the global method.
Randomization Unit
Clusters of CMIE's primary sampling units. A PSU roughly corresponds to a village in rural areas, and a town/city in urban areas.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Approximately 2,386 clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 71,453 households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment: 1,186 clusters, 35,993 households
Control: 1,200 clusters, 35,460 households
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
at 90% power and 1% significance, our minimum detectable effect for the increase in the share of households with a migrant is about 1 percentage point off a base of 45% (std dev = 0.498). That is, we are powered to detect a change from 45% to 46% or higher. We do not yet have data to estimate the MDE for the well-being index. Instead, our minimum detectable effect for monthly per adult equivalent household consumption is 2.4 rupees on a base of 137 (about 2%, std dev = 76). Our minimum detectable effect for monthly per adult equivalent household income is 9.5 rupees on a base of 261 (about 4%, std dev = 287).

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IFMR Human Subjects Committee
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
University of Rochester
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Pre-Analysis Plan

MD5: 96353b8824830429a96d5a66b7a6c701

SHA1: 789fb9b4726f8b79ac00f9989205e019c8e6ff91

Uploaded At: October 16, 2021