An Adaptive Targeted Field Experiment: Job Search Assistance for Refugees in Jordan

Stefano Caria, Grant Gordon, Maximilian Kasy, Simon Quinn, Soha Shami, Alexander Teytelboym

CESifo Working Paper Series, No. 8535 (2020)


The Government of Jordan estimates that around 1.3 million Syrian refugees have arrived in the country since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, of whom 660,000 have registered with UNHCR.

This paper estimates the effect of a program to assist Syrian refugees and local jobseekers in Jordan find wage employment. Over 3,700 participants (1,663 Syrians and 2,107 Jordanians) were enrolled in the program, which was implemented by the International Rescue Committee in 2019.

Participants were assigned to either a control group or received one of three interventions designed to address either material, informational, or behavioral impediments to finding and retaining employment: (1) a small, unconditional cash transfer (around US$90) which enabled participants to cover the average cost of job search for a period of about 10 weeks; (2) information on how to prepare for and interview for a formal job together with information on the legal rights of employees; and (3) a “behavioral nudge” intervention to strengthen job search motivation, including the provision of a job-search planning calendar, an instructional video on how to use the calendar, a face-to-face demonstration, and reminder text messages. Results were assessed through three phone surveys at six weeks, two months, and four months after the baseline survey.

Main findings:

  • The programs had only a small impact on six-week employment outcomes. At the end of six weeks, none of the interventions had had a significant impact on the probability that individuals were in wage employment.
  • The cash intervention had large and significant impacts on refugee employment and earnings, two and four months after baseline. Two months after baseline, the cash transfer intervention had raised the proportion of Syrians who looked for work by 5.6 percentage points (a 13 percent increase over a job-search rate of 44 percent in the control group) and had led Syrians to place 0.5 more job applications (a 40 percent increase over a mean of 1.2 applications in the control group). The cash transfer increased the employment rate by more than 50 percent (5.2 percentage points in the two-month survey and 3.8 percentage points at the four-month survey) and increased earnings by about 40 percent after two months and 65 percent after four months.
  • Liquidity is an important barrier to labor market access for refugees. The large positive effects on employment and earnings were driven by individuals with below-median expenditure at baseline. Baseline expenditure was also significantly associated with job search intensity in the control group.
  • Information and behavioral nudge interventions boosted job search rates among refugees and positively affected employment and earnings after two months. Two months after baseline, the information intervention and the behavioral nudge intervention had raised job search rates by 4.7 percentage points and 3.7 percentage points respectively and had raised job applications by 35 percent and 55 percent respectively. While there were positive effects on employment and earnings after two months, the impacts were smaller than those of the cash grant and had largely dissipated by four months.
  • The interventions didn’t have any effect on labor market outcomes for Jordanians in the sample. Jordanians had larger baseline expenditure, searched at higher intensity, and found jobs faster than the Syrians.

The results highlight the liquidity constraints faced by refugees that impede their job search and employment outcomes. However, cash is not the binding constraint for all refugees, as demonstrated by the positive employment effects of information and behavioral nudge interventions in the program.