Can SMS Technology Improve Low Take-up of Social Benefits?

Produced by: 
Universidad del Rosario
Available from: 
December 2013
Paper author(s): 
Mariana Blanco
Juan F. Vargas
Topic: 
Conflict, Crime and Violence
Year: 
2013

Low take up of stigma-free social benefits is often blamed on information asymmetries or administrative barriers. There is limited evidence on which of these potential channels is more salient in which contexts. We designed and implemented a randomized controlled trial to assess the extent to which informational barriers are responsible for the prevalent low take up of government benefits among Colombian conflict-driven internal refugees. We provide timely information on benefits eligibility via SMS to a random half of the displaced household that migrated to Bogotá over a 6-month period. We show that improving information increases benefits' take up. However, the effect is small and only true for certain type of benefits. Hence, consistent with previous experimental literature, the availability of timely information explains only part of the low take up rates and the role of administrative barriers and bureaucratic processes should be tackled to increase the well-being of internal refugees in Colombia.

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Research section: 
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