Banerjee and Duflo defend RCT

The abstract is this:

Randomized experiments have become a popular tool in development economics research, and have been the subject of a number of criticisms. This paper reviews the recent literature, and discusses the strengths and limitations of this approach in theory and in practice. We argue that the main virtue of randomized experiments is that, due to the close collaboration between researchers and implementers, they allow the estimation of parameters that it would not otherwise be possible to evaluate. We discuss the concerns that have been raised regarding experiments, and generally conclude that while they are real, they are often not specific to experiments. We conclude by discussing the relationship between theory and experiments.

There are 39 additional pages, which I have yet to read.  The paper is here and hat tip goes to the essential Rachel Strohm.

Comments

Pay 'em.

And this is where Tyler's "drop the effective" part comes in. We are experimenting on people whether we like it or not.

"I don't remember this being shouted from the rooftops:

"Improving access to textbooks from one per four or more students to one per every two does not affect the average test score (Glewwe, Kremer and Moulin, forthcoming); nor does halving the teacher-student ratio (Banerjee, Jacob
and Kremer, 2005). On the other hand, one might also get surprisingly positive results: A study of treatment for intestinal worms in schools in Kenya (Miguel and Kremer, 2004), showed that a deworming treatment that costs 49 cents per child per year can reduce absenteeism by one-quarter."

School is not about the school, it's about the students.

"how could we possibly know, a priori, that deworming is so much more
effective than hiring a teacher"

Indeed. It is kind of funny that they treat de-worming as an educational program. As I read this stuff about uniforms for kids, I am tempted to believe that we don't have more business cycles because we are so inefficient and mal-investment is the rule and not an exception.

I suppose we can look for our future in the theocracy of Iran. I hope we don't bring back Faith Based Government.

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