Paternalism in the Welfare State

Last registered on April 14, 2022

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Paternalism in the Welfare State
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0009144
Initial registration date
April 12, 2022

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
April 14, 2022, 11:53 AM EDT

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

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Stanford University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Zurich
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
Stanford University

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2022-05-02
End date
2022-11-30
Secondary IDs
Stanford IRB-53441
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
Assistance towards the poor in Western economies is often delivered in the form of in-kind transfers. This form is puzzling from the vantage point of standard microeconomic theory, according to which cash transfers are the most efficient means of raising recipients' welfare. To understand the motivations for such policies, we conduct two lab-in-the-field experiments in the US and in Germany. General population respondents have the opportunity to place restrictions on a transfer we deliver to a welfare recipient who participates in the study. We examine the causes underlying the restrictions individuals impose. Using a structural model, we quantify the importance of various motives including respect for the recipient's autonomy. We characterize how these motivations differ depending on whether the welfare recipient is black or white, male or female, young or old, and whether the recipient has children. In counterfactual simulations, we then examine whether and how approval of paternalistic constraints on welfare payments would change if individuals had accurate beliefs about the recipients' use of the funds as well as about the demographic composition of the recipient pool. We also examine whether the pronounced differences between the US and German welfare states are traceable to voters' respect for the autonomy of welfare recipients and / or to variation in beliefs about recipients' choices and characteristics.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Ambuehl, Sandro et al. 2022. "Paternalism in the Welfare State." AEA RCT Registry. April 14. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.9144
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2022-05-02
Intervention End Date
2022-11-30

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
• meanBelief: The respondent’s incentivized belief about the average total gift card value the welfare recipient would trade for the food box, elicited using a multiple price list with eight dollar amounts ($0, $15, $30, $40, $50, $60, $75, $90)
• patFoodSw: The range out of the nine defined by the eight dollar amounts ($0, $15, $30, $40, $50, $60, $75, $90) in which the respondent switches from sending the welfare recipient the food box to letting them choose between the food box and gift cards worth that amount.
• surrSw: The range out of the nine defined by the eight dollar amounts ($0, $15, $30, $40, $50, $60, $75, $90) in which the respondent switches from sending the welfare recipient the food box to sending them gift cards worth that amount.
• We again elicit the first and the last of the above three outcomes after informing the respondent whether the welfare recipient prefers food or gift cards worth a given amount.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We assign the midpoint of each interval as the value of the outcome for respondents who switch in that interval. For example, someone who lets respondents choose between food and gift cards at $40 and above but who forces food at $30 and below would have patFoodSw = $35.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
• sdBelief: The respondent’s incentivized belief about the standard deviation of the total gift card value the welfare recipient would trade for the food box, elicited using a multiple price list with eight dollar amounts ($0, $15, $30, $40, $50, $60, $75, $90)
• sdBelief, elicited after informing the respondent whether the welfare recipient prefers food or gift cards worth a given amount.
• altruism: The dollar amount out of a list of six dollar amounts ($0, $10,…,$50) that the respondent would give to the welfare recipient if the amount remaining out of $50 goes to a random U.S. taxpayer.
• recFood: Whether the respondent recommends choosing food if they give the welfare recipient the choice between food and gift cards (rather than the food box).
• Miscellaneous questions regarding how respondents use the food and gift cards, how they spend the marginal dollar from each, the price of the food box, welfare recipients’ demographics, the acceptability of different choices, political views, and demographics.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We present respondents with a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) recipient and one of two different food boxes, each worth about $45. One in 80 respondents makes the choice about a real person. Respondents learn that the welfare recipient may or may not be real and do not learn whether they are. Respondents then make a series of choices regarding whether the welfare recipient receives the food box or a set of gift cards of their choice worth a given dollar amount.

In order to run these treatments, we first run a survey with SNAP recipients where we elicit their preferences for the food box compared to gift cards.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Random number generator on Qualtrics platform
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
4000 respondents; 40-60 welfare recipients for incentives.
Sample size: planned number of observations
4000 respondents; 40-60 welfare recipients for incentives.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 660 respondents in each race x gender x children (if female) bin.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
With our current sample size, resampling our pilot data indicates we have the following power to detect a $5 difference in the listed outcomes between any two demographic groups (e.g. white single male vs. black single male) at a 5% significance level: patFoodSw 77.2% surrSw 96.6% surrSw, elicited again after observing the welfare recipient chose $45 in gift cards over the food box 87.9% surrSw, elicited again after observing the welfare recipient chose the food box over $45 in gift cards 64.9%
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Non-Medical Research, Stanford University
IRB Approval Date
2022-03-31
IRB Approval Number
53441
Analysis Plan

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