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Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments

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  • Sylvain Chassang
  • Gerard Padro I Miquel
  • Erik Snowberg

Abstract

We study the design of randomized controlled experiments when outcomes are significantly affected by experimental subjects' unobserved effort expenditure. While standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are internally consistent, the unobservability of effort compromises external validity. We approach trial design as a principal-agent problem and show that natural extensions of RCTs--which we call selective trials--can help improve external validity. In particular, selective trials can disentangle the effects of treatment, effort, and the interaction of treatment and effort. Moreover, they can help identify when treatment effects are affected by erroneous beliefs and inappropriate effort expenditure. (JEL C90, D82)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (June)
Pages: 1279-1309

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:4:p:1279-1309

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Cited by:
  1. Hunt Allcott, 2012. "Site Selection Bias in Program Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 18373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gregory Fischer & James Berry & Raymond Guiteras, 2012. "Eliciting and utilizing willingness to pay: evidence from field trials in Northern Ghana," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47913, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Bryan, Gharad & Karlan, Dean & Zinman, Jonathan, 2012. "You Can Pick Your Friends, but You Need to Watch Them: Loan Screening and Enforcement in a Referrals Field Experiment," Working Papers 99, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  4. B. Kelsey Jack, 2013. "Private Information and the Allocation of Land Use Subsidies in Malawi," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 113-35, July.
  5. Anup Malani & Tomas J. Philipson, 2011. "Can Medical Progress be Sustained? Implications of the Link Between Development and Output Markets," NBER Working Papers 17011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Hanna, Rema & Duflo, Esther & Greenstone, Michael, 2012. "Up in Smoke: The Influence of Household Behavior on the Long-Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves," Working Paper Series rwp12-015, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  7. Gani Aldashev & Georg Kirchsteiger & Alexander Sebald, 2012. "Assignment procedure biases in randomized policy experiments," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 292, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  8. Raymond P. Guiteras & B. Kelsey Jack, 2014. "Incentives, Selection and Productivity in Labor Markets: Evidence from Rural Malawi," NBER Working Papers 19825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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