This study experimentally evaluates the impact of an IRC (International Rescue Committee) BILLY program designed to increase the employment likelihood and income of young urban refugees and vulnerable populations in Nairobi. We pursue an individually randomized controlled trial to understand how a package of bundled services compares to an experimental control group and two different treatment arms that receive a combination of services and cash grants of equivalent cost to the IRC. Moreover, the study incorporates an incentive-compatible ‘choice’ arm that allows us to assess the extent to which refugees have access to information about what mix of training and cash will best enable their business to succeed.
This project will evaluate the impacts of these programs on the employment status, time use, productive assets, earnings, and consumption of the target population. In addition, we will examine impacts on a range of mechanisms of impact and alternative measures of well-being, ranging from mental health to perceived self-efficacy and cognitive bandwidth. Finally, by evaluating these impacts in parallel for populations of refugees and comparably situated native residents, our study will speak to the generalizability of the existing microentrepreneurship literature on the crucial problem of putting refugees’ skills to productive employment.
The study uses an individually randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the impacts of an IRC program that provides micro-entrepreneurship training to a vulnerable population consisting primarily of refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. Specifically, we evaluate the microentrepreneurship track offered in the IRC’s Building Income and Leveraging Livelihoods for Youth (BILLY) program. This program will be ‘benchmarked’ against the impact of a cash transfer equivalent in costs, and a third active treatment arm unbundled the training to examine responses to a mixture of cash and training — again, holding total costs constant. Finally, to understand how the target population’s information may be harnessed to learn not only about their willingness to pay for specific alternatives but also about their idiosyncratic returns to human capital versus liquidity, we implement an incentivized ‘choice’ exercise.
Primary investigators: Sana Khan (IRC) and Andrew Zeitlin (GU).
ReBuild – Kenya
The Refugees in East Africa: Boosting Urban Innovations for Livelihoods Development (ReBuild) Kenya study is a randomized controlled trial in Nairobi, Kenya, whose objective is to evaluate different versions of the Re: Build program, a cash transfer and mentorship program for vulnerable microentrepreneurs from the IRC (International Rescue Committee), the implementing partner of the study.
Conducted in partnership with researchers at Princeton University, the study aims to measure the economic, psychological, and social impacts of an intervention that alleviates barriers for subsistence microentrepreneurs and seeks to understand whether, in a mentorship program, shared or mismatched identities confer greater economic and psychological benefits to new entrepreneurs, and whether mentorship programs might have benefits for mentors in terms of social cohesion and attitudes toward refugees more generally.
The study has multiple treatment arms and a control arm, which is a delayed treatment arm. The different treatment arms will consist of randomly assigning microenterprise clients to have a mentor or not, having matched- vs. mismatched-identity mentors based on gender, nationality, and industry, and going through a perspective-giving exercise with their mentors or not.
The study will conduct two pilots before finalizing the design for the full, 18-month RCT.
Primary investigators: Sana Khan (Princeton), Betsy Levy Paluck (Princeton), and Andrew Zeitlin (GU).
ReBuild – Uganda
The Refugees in East Africa: Boosting Urban Innovations for Livelihoods Development (ReBuild) Uganda study is a randomized controlled trial in Kampala, Uganda, whose objective is to evaluate different versions of the Re: Build program, a cash transfer and mentorship program for vulnerable microentrepreneurs from the IRC (International Rescue Committee), the implementing partner of the study.
Conducted in partnership with researchers at the University of Rochester, the Center for Global Development, and the Economic Policy Research Centre, the study explores the cost-effectiveness of cash alone, cash with mentorship, and an additional “shared fate” model for mentorship, and aims to address the following broad questions:
- What are the impact and cost-effectiveness of microenterprise services on self-employment outcomes?
- What are the cost-effective ways to improve social cohesion between refugees and hosts?
Additionally, it will seek to understand whether shared or mismatched identities confer greater economic and psychological benefits to new entrepreneurs and whether mentorship programs might benefit mentors in terms of social cohesion and attitudes toward refugees more generally.
The study has multiple treatment arms and a control arm, which will be offered the treatment after the study’s conclusion. All treatment arms will receive a cash grant after six weeks and be eligible for an additional lottery every two months, which provides a cash reward for having an open business at the time of the lottery draw.
In addition to the cash grant and lottery, some clients will be assigned to a mentorship group, consisting of 3 total microenterprise clients and a mentor. For some groups, the payouts in the lottery will depend on their individual business performance, and for other groups, the payouts will depend on their group members’ business performance.
By giving group members a stake in the others’ success, a pay-for-performance structure could encourage the group to invest additional effort in each other and/or disclose valuable information or techniques. Finally, some groups will mix nationalities (2 Ugandans and 2 refugees of the same nationality) and/or mix genders (2 men and 2 women) to evaluate the value of heterogeneous groups compared to homogeneous groups on these dimensions.
Primary investigators: Travis Baseler (Rochester), Thomas Ginn (CGD), Ibrahim Kasirye (EPRC), Andrew Zeitlin (GU).