Do Expectations About Government Benefits Affect Human Capital Investment?

Last registered on January 21, 2022

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Do Expectations About Government Benefits Affect Human Capital Investment?
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0008427
Initial registration date
October 22, 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
October 25, 2021, 11:59 AM EDT

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

Last updated
January 21, 2022, 5:19 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Chicago

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Chicago

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2021-10-25
End date
2025-02-01
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program, provides cash payments to the families of 1.3 million low-income children with disabilities. SSI children with mental and behavioral conditions such as ADHD and speech delay have high high school dropout rates and low employment rates in adulthood (Hemmeter et al. 2009; Davies et al. 2009). Available evidence indicates that SSI families are unaware of the high likelihood of removal from SSI at age 18 and may underinvest in the human capital of their children (Johnson et al, 2007). Using data from the Social Security Administration (SSA), which implements SSI, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial to estimate the effects of informing the families of SSI children about the likelihood of removal from SSI at age 18. We will inform randomly-selected households of their child’s likelihood of removal at 18, as well as provide opportunities to invest in their child at no charge to them. We will measure the effect of the intervention on short-run investments in human capital investments and plan to gather data on longer-run outcomes (e.g., educational outcomes, earnings) as well. The RCT will provide evidence on how expectations about the availability of government benefits affect human capital investment decisions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Deshpande, Manasi and Rebecca Dizon-Ross. 2022. "Do Expectations About Government Benefits Affect Human Capital Investment?." AEA RCT Registry. January 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8427
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Primary Intervention:
“Information treatment”: Our primary intervention is informing families about their child’s likelihood of removal from SSI at age 18. Participants will be shown a video personalized with their child’s predicted likelihood of removal. The video describes the child’s predicted likelihood of removal from SSI and the consequences of removal. After viewing the video, they will be sent follow-up mailings reinforcing and restating the information.

Auxiliary Interventions:
To explore the mechanisms behind the effects of the information treatment, we also have two auxiliary treatments. These interventions allow us to probe on whether “perverse incentives” play any role in the effects of the information treatment. By “perverse incentives,” we mean the idea that providing information that increases the perceived probability of removal could actually decrease investments in human capital if people think that lowering their investments is a way to avoid removal. Our first auxiliary treatment is designed to exacerbate the perverse incentive channel and the second to dampen it.

1. “Primed information treatment”: This group will receive the “information” treatment plus language from SSA materials saying that SSA will ask for information about the child’s school and health records as part of the removal decision.
2. “Confidentiality treatment”: This treatment tells recipients that we will not be sharing the take-up decisions made as part of our experiment with the Social Security Administration. This treatment will be cross-randomized across the Information treatment and Experimental control groups, excluding the Primed Information treatment.
Intervention Start Date
2021-10-25
Intervention End Date
2022-05-01

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Our primary short-run outcomes are:
1. Take-up of the career-readiness book
2. Take-up of tutoring for the child (instead of cash) as the lottery prize
3. Take-up of online math tutoring
4. Take-up of Vocational Rehabilitation services

If we are able to obtain data, our later-run plan is to add in medium-run and longer-run outcomes on educational outcomes, use of vocational rehabilitation services, earnings, take-up of public assistance in adulthood, and potentially criminal activity.

Our primary short-run outcomes in the second round of our survey are:
1. Take-up of the career book (in the second round, it is a career book for parents)
2. Parents' short-term and long-term work plans (two separate questions)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Short-run outcomes will be collected from our websurvey and resource center data. This will be our primary method for determining the immediate impact of the intervention. Most outcomes are binary 1/0 for taking up a resource, conditional on reaching the video portion of the websurvey. All the resource outcomes are conditional on not answering that the child does not receive SSI when asked at baseline how much the child receives in SSI benefits.

For the second round of our survey, the parents' plans for future work will come from questions asked in our endline survey.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
a. Visiting the resource center
b. Websurvey endline questions about whether they child will go to college and about whether the parent thinks the child will work (and if so how much)
c. Whether the family signs up for a savings account in the resource center
d. For take-up of the vocational rehabilitation services, two separate indicators splitting up motivations between education and career preparation
1. one indicator that they selected the “education planning services” on the “Menu page” of the resources center (unconditional on visiting the resource center)
2. one indicator that they selected the “employment training services” on the “Menu page” of the resources center (unconditional on visiting the resource center)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We randomly select the sample for our intervention groups and our experimental control group using administrative data provided by SSA. Our sampling frame is the sample of parents of kids receiving SSI who are 14-17.5, have not had an older sibling on SSI at age 17, speak English or Spanish as their primary language, have a projected probability of removal between 35%-95%, were not selected for one of our pilot surveys, and have either (a) above-median removal probability for their state (meaning that, in most cases, we only examine children with relatively high removal probabilities), OR (b) are in a state where we expect to get administrative education data (where we hence include those with both high and low removal probabilities since we want to maximize our potential sample size for education data outcomes).

Those not selected but who are in our sampling frame represent our “pure control” group which we are not analyzing for our short-run outcomes analysis, but may bring in for analyses of longer-run outcomes.

Each household in the information treatment group, primed information treatment group, or experimental control group is mailed a letter inviting them to participate in our websurvey. Parents can then log on and complete (or complete via phone) our survey, which consists of a baseline survey, the intervention video, and an endline survey.

The intervention video will vary by treatment group.
- The information and primed information treatment groups will view the video on their child’s removal probability
- The experimental control group will be randomly divided into two groups—One that receives a placebo video on the history of SSI and the other that receives a placebo video on the geography of SSI.

After the video ends, those in the “primed information” treatment group also see a screen that gives more information about how SSI makes removal decisions.

The endline survey has three main parts. First, we ask several questions about perceived likelihood of removal and plans for the future (e.g., whether the parent thinks their child will attend college and whether the parent plans to work in the coming years). Second, we offer parents the choice between receiving their survey completion incentive in cash vs a reduced cash payment plus a Career Readiness Book for Teens (in the second round of the survey, we offer a Career Book for Parents in place of the Career Book for Teens). At this point, we also offer the choice between $300 worth of tutoring for their child vs $50 cash should they be selected as a lottery winner. Finally, at the end of the websurvey, we invite all participants to the “Resource Center” where they can sign up for free opportunities for their child including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services, an ABLE savings account, and math tutoring. At the invitation, those who are randomized to receive the “Confidentiality treatment” will be told that their take-up decisions will be confidential and not shared with the Social Security Administration.

After completing the survey, parents can go to the Resource Center and select educational and career-readiness resources for their child at no charge to them. Those who are randomized to receive the “Confidentiality Treatment” will also see the confidentiality message on the main screen of the Resource Center where they select their resources.

In the weeks following completion, parents will receive additional follow-up mailings, emails, and texts (if they consent to being contacted by email and text) with reminders about resources and the information intervention (or placebo information).

Our longer-term plan will then be to gather longer-term outcomes and compare the experimental control and experimental treatment groups. If survey take-up is sufficiently high, we will also incorporate the pure control as another comparison group for those analyses.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization is stratified by state (grouping together small states regionally) and above-/below-median removal probability. We will randomize our sample in the office by a computer.
Randomization Unit
Household
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
First Round: 37,000 households
Second Round: 6,750 households
Sample size: planned number of observations
First Round: 37,000 invited, target response of 8,000 Second Round: 6,750 invited, target response of 1,000
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
First Round: Experimental Treatment Sample (invited to complete websurvey): 37,000 invited, 8,000 expected completions, split as follows:
Information Treatment: 48%
24% receive confidentiality treatment
24% do not receive confidentiality treatment
Experimental Control: 48%
12% receive history placebo video and confidentiality treatment
12% receive history placebo video and no confidentiality treatment
12% receive geography placebo video and confidentiality treatment
12% receive geography placebo video and no confidentiality treatment
Primed Information Treatment: 4% of sample

Second Round: Experimental Treatment Sample (invited to complete websurvey) 6,750 invited, 1,000 expected completions, split as follows:
Information Treatment: 50%
50% do not receive confidentiality treatment
Experimental Control: 50%
25% receive history placebo video and no confidentiality treatment
25% receive geography placebo video and no confidentiality treatment

Pure Control Sample (not invited to complete websurvey): roughly 22,200
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
University of Chicago IRB
IRB Approval Date
2020-12-23
IRB Approval Number
IRB16-0410
Analysis Plan

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