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Field Experiments

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Atlanta Marriott Marquis, International 2
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Michael Price, University of Alabama

Aspiration Adaptation in Resource-Constrained Environments

Raimundo Undurraga
University of Chile
Sebastian Galiani
University of Maryland
Paul J. Gertler
University of California-Berkeley


We use a multi-country field experiment to test the effect of a slum-housing intervention on the housing aspirations of non-beneficiary neighbors. Initially after treatment, non-treated households' aspirations to upgrade their dwelling are significantly higher compared to the treatment group, suggesting that they aspire to ``keep-up" with their treatment Joneses'. No effects are found, however, on housing investments. Eight months later, the aspirational effect disappears. Estimates based on a structural model of aspiration adaptation show that the decay rate is 38% per month. Our evidence suggests that simply fostering higher aspirations may be insufficient to encourage forward-looking behavior among the poor.

Asymmetry in Civic Information: An Experiment on Tax Incidence among SMEs in Togo

Moussa P. Blimpo
World Bank
Paul Castaneda Dower
University of Wisconsin-Madison


In many low-income countries, there is a wedge between the statutory policies on tax compliance and the practice on the ground, especially for the taxation of informal firms. This asymmetry of information on the nature of these firms' civic responsibility to pay taxes leaves much discretion to tax collectors, leading to variation in practices and further distrust and/or confusion among taxpayers and the tax authority. We ran a randomized controlled trial with 400 firms in Lome, Togo, to investigate whether alleviating this informational asymmetry improves tax incidence. We assigned half of the sample to an informational treatment about tax procedures and obligations as well as the use
of tax revenues to provide public services. Surprisingly, treated firms, who we show are now better informed, participate less in the tax system and have
worse perceptions of state actors. The results show increased participation among firms with higher revenues and decreased participation among firms with lower revenues. We consider several rationalizations of the
findings with varying degree of supportive evidence.

The Hidden Role of Piped Water in the Prevention of Obesity in Developing Countries. Experimental and Non-Experimental Evidence

Patricia I. Ritter
University of Connecticut


Child obesity in developing countries is growing at an alarming pace. This study investigates whether expanding access to piped water at home can contribute to stopping this epidemic. It exploits experimental data from Morocco and longitudinal data from the Philippines and finds that access to piped water at home reduces childhood BMI and obesity rates. This study further shows that the effect seems to be generated by a reduction in the consumption of food prepared outside the home. Finally, the study shows that the effect of access to piped water on healthy nutritional status is hidden when access to piped water at home reduces diarrhea prevalence since this in turn increases BMI.

Improving Shock-Coping with Precautionary Savings: Effects of Mobile Banking on Transactional Sex in Kenya

Kelly Jones
American University
Erick Gong
Middlebury College


For the most vulnerable, even small negative shocks can have significant
short- and long-term impacts. Few interventions that improve shock-coping
are widely available in sub-Saharan Africa. We test whether individual precautionary
savings can mitigate a shock-coping behavior with potentially negative
spillovers: transactional sex. Sex for money is a common shock-coping
behavior in sub-Saharan Africa and is believed to be a leading driver of the
HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a field experiment in Kenya, we randomly assigned half
of 600+ participating, vulnerable women to a savings intervention that consists
of opening a mobile banking savings account labeled for emergency expenses
and individual goals. We find that the intervention led to an increase in total
mobile savings, reductions in transactional sex as a risk-coping response to
shocks, and a decrease in symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.
JEL Classifications
  • O1 - Economic Development