The Impact of Mobile Phones: Experimental Evidence from the Random Assignment of New Cell Towers

Abstract

We present experimental evidence on the economic impacts of mobile phone access. Our results are based on a randomized control trial in the Philippines, through which 14 isolated and previously unconnected villages were randomly assigned to either receive or not receive a new cellphone tower. Following a pre-analysis plan that focused on 10 pre-specified outcome indices, we find that access to a new mobile phone network increases access and use of communications technology; increases social connections within and between communities; and increases household income and expenditure. However, we find no evidence of impacts on impacts on informedness of current events, market access, remittances and risk-sharing, or subjective well being. We speculate that the income and expenditure effects are driven by the improved migration opportunities available to households with mobile phone access.

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