Chris Blattman et. al. report long-term RCT results for a program of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) + cash transfers for criminally-involved men in Liberia. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds sizable reduction in anti-social behavior (e.g., drug-selling, robbery) at 10-year follow-up.

Program:

  • This was an 8-week group CBT program - Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia - focused on developing skills for planning, goal-setting & decision-making; controlling emotions/impulses; & fostering a noncriminal self-image. It also included a one-time $200 cash grant.

Study Design:

  • The study randomly assigned 999 criminally-involved young men to (i) CBT alone; (ii) CBT + cash; (iii) cash alone; or (iv) control.

Findings:

  • The study found, at the 10-yr mark, that CBT + cash significantly reduced anti-social behavior vs the control group (effect size -0.25, p<0.05).

  • The effect appears driven mainly by decreases of nearly 50% in drug-selling & thefts/robberies. The effect of CBT alone (vs control) was almost as large and close to statistical significance: effect size -0.20, p<0.10. Earlier study follow-ups had also found sizable effects.

Comment:

  • Based on careful review, this was a high quality RCT (e.g., good baseline balance, low attrition). Outcomes were self-reported but many years after the program, lessening concerns about social desirability bias (e.g., treatment group reporting behavior they'd just been taught as desirable).

  • Overall, I think very promising. A replication RCT in another location would be valuable to hopefully confirm the result & establish its generalizability to other settings.

We use cookies to improve your experience and to help us understand how you use our site. Please refer to our cookie notice and privacy statement for more information regarding cookies and other third-party tracking that may be enabled.

Intuit Mailchimp logo