Stigma and Take-Up of Labor Market Assistance: Evidence from Two Field Experiments

49 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2023

See all articles by Adam Osman

Adam Osman

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); Economic Research Forum (ERF)

Jamin Speer

University of Memphis

Abstract

Aversion to "stigma" - disutility associated with a program or activity due to beliefs about how it is perceived - may affect labor market choices and utilization of social programs, but empirical evidence of its importance is scarce. Using two randomized field experiments, we show that stigma can affect consequential labor market decisions. Treatments designed to alleviate stigma concerns about taking entry-level jobs - such as how those jobs are perceived by society - had small average effects on take-up of job assistance programs.However, using compositional analysis and machine learning methods, we document large heterogeneity in the responses to our treatments. Stigma significantly affects the composition of who takes up a program: the treatments were successful in overcoming stigma for older, wealthier, and working respondents. For other people, we show that our treatments merely increased the salience of the stigma without dispelling it. We conclude that social image concerns affect labor market decisions and that messaging surrounding programs can have important effects on program take-up and composition.

Keywords: stigma, experiment, machine learning

JEL Classification: J22, C93, I38, Z13

Suggested Citation

Osman, Adam and Speer, Jamin, Stigma and Take-Up of Labor Market Assistance: Evidence from Two Field Experiments. IZA Discussion Paper No. 16599, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4634505 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4634505

Adam Osman (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL Champaign 61820
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

30 Wadsworth Street, E53-320
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Economic Research Forum (ERF) ( email )

21 Al-Sad Al-Aaly St.
(P.O. Box: 12311)
Dokki, Cairo
Egypt

Jamin Speer

University of Memphis

Memphis, TN 38152
Memphis, TN usa 38152-3370
United States

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