Exploring Intra-Household Information Sharing Using a Lab in the Field
1 Overview and significance
There is a growing consensus among development economists that the adoption of modern farming practices
and technologies improves the welfare of smallholder farmers and sparks the growth and development of the
agriculture sector in developing countries. By adopting modern farming practices and technologies, farmers
can increase profits (Bezu et al., 2014; Takahashi et al., 2019), improve food security (Shiferaw et al., 2014),
and increase the quality and diversity of both their children’s diets and their own (Kim et al., 2019; Bezu
et al., 2014). Despite these welfare improving outcomes, technology adoption rates remain consistently low
and issues such as chronic malnutrition remain persistent in most of the developing world. Lambrecht et al.
(2014) states technology adoption occurs in three stages; awareness, tryout, and continued use. Access to
and the quality of information plays a vital role in an individual’s decision to adopt new technology.
In many developing countries, information is first introduced to farmers through extension agents, local
traders, or marketers. Extension agents rarely meet the demand for extension services while subsistence households do not interact frequently with local traders and marketers reducing farmers’ access to information.
Recent studies have focused on increasing smallholder farmers’ access to information by increasing extension
access (Kondylis et al., 2016), using peer to peer (P2P) training (BenYishay & Mobarak, 2019; Fafchamps,
2019), and leveraging social networks to improve diffusion (Banerjee et al., 2014; Beaman et al., 2018).
Although these studies show increased rates of information sharing and technology adoption, many of these
studies find that women were less likely to obtain information than men (Beaman & Dillon, 2018), men were
less likely to listen to female trained farmers (BenYishay et al., 2020), and information sourced through a
female social network had less impact on demand for agricultural technologies (Magnan et al., 2015).
Although women play a key role in development, technology adoption among women continues to lag
behind men. This lag is often attributed to the unique barriers women face such as time constraints, credit
constraints, information constraints, and gender norms. These barriers to information are found within the
household where husbands have more awareness and knowledge of agricultural technology (Fisher et al., 2019)
and credit opportunities (Fletschner & Mesbah, 2011) than their wives. Studies on information diffusion
may overestimate the impact of their intervention by assuming household level access to information or
household level knowledge of new technology. Information diffusion designs, such as peer-to-peer farmer
training, that do not include within household behavior may underperform or lead to larger gender gaps in
access to information. Recent work determining spousal roles in adopting technology has found mixed results.
Women may have little impact on the household’s decision to adopt new technologies if the information enters
the house through her (Gulati et al., 2019), however, Magnan et al. (2020) find that the adoption decision
for improved maize varieties are correlated to risk preferences of both the husband’s and wives showing that
intrahousehold decision making is complicated, heterogeneous, and how the information enters the household
impacts which technology is adopted. Despite these effects information has within the household, few studies
have attempted to directly test for information sharing in the household.
This study uses a laboratory in the field experiment to observe information sharing within the household.
This paper contributes to two broad areas of research. First, this paper builds on the existing literature
on household behavior. Several papers have tested the assumptions of many household models. Our paper
contributes to this literature by experimentally observing information sharing by both husbands and wives
as well as how the control of the income within the household impacts information sharing. Second, our
paper contributes to the information dissemination literature. Many papers have explored ways to improve
information dissemination across households. BenYishay & Mobarak (2019) uses performance based incentives to improve peer-to-peer information sharing. Others such as Banerjee et al. (2014) use social network
characteristics to improve information dissemination. Many of these papers focus on farmer to farmer or
household to household information dissemination. Our paper contributes to this literature by expanding on
the findings in Beaman & Dillon (2018) and focusing on the barriers to information women face specifically
within their household.
2 Empirical strategy
We use a lab in the field with a 2x2 treatment design to exogenously vary the training of one spouse in each
household and the control each spouse has over the income the household receives from the experiment. We
ask couples from groundnut-producing households in Northern Ghana to attend two meetings. Within each
meeting, participants are asked to solve the 4-disk version of the Tower of Hanoi for a cash prize. Households
will be assigned to one of four treatment groups, husband first- individual payment, wife first- individual
payment, husband first- joint payment, and wife first- joint payment. These four treatment groups allow us
to observe information sharing between husbands and wives through their performance in this task as well
as the impact income control has on information-sharing behavior across genders.
The primary goal of using a lab in the field is to create a unique environment to observe information
sharing exogenous to the many factors that impact information sharing. We expect the results of the study
to reflect real-world practices. We collect information about groundnut practices and income from both
spouses. We use this information to create outcome variables that are correlated with information sharing.
We then compare household information sharing in the lab to information sharing in practice.
3 Data, Methods, and Expected Results
Our study involves 480 households among 12 villages in Northern Ghana. Both the husband and wife
of each household are interviewed separately. The interview consists of 5 parts: household demographics, information sources, groundnut production, spouse’s groundnut production, and groundnut technology
knowledge. Participants perform the task using an android based tablet that collects the number of moves
made, what move was made, and the time until completion which are uploaded directly from the tablet to a
cloud-based database. We interview the untrained spouse at the second meeting about the information they
received from their spouse or other members outside of the household. We expect to experimentally find
results similar to Fletschner & Mesbah (2011) where men often do not share information with their wives.
Further, we expect to expand on those results and observe information sharing from women to their husbands.
We expect that when income is shared women are more likely to share information, however, information
will be under-supplied in individual payments where the benefits of sharing may not outweigh the costs.
4 Potential for discussion
We will start by discussing the policy-relevant question of unintended consequences of information dissemination strategies that focus on the household level. Women face unique barriers to information-making
technology adoption that may reduce food insecurity, improve food safety, and increase women’s empowerment less likely. The focus of the discussion will be on improving future information dissemination strategies
to be more inclusive of women and shedding light on the barriers to information women face within their own
households. Furthermore, information dissemination strategies may need to account for household income