Instruments, Randomization, and Learning about Development
AbstractThere is currently much debate about the effectiveness of foreign aid and about what kind of projects can engender economic development. There is skepticism about the ability of econometric analysis to resolve these issues or of development agencies to learn from their own experience. In response, there is increasing use in development economics of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to accumulate credible knowledge of what works, without overreliance on questionable theory or statistical methods. When RCTs are not possible, the proponents of these methods advocate quasi-randomization through instrumental variable (IV) techniques or natural experiments. I argue that many of these applications are unlikely to recover quantities that are useful for policy or understanding: two key issues are the misunderstanding of exogeneity and the handling of heterogeneity. I illustrate from the literature on aid and growth. Actual randomization faces similar problems as does quasi-randomization, notwithstanding rhetoric to the contrary. I argue that experiments have no special ability to produce more credible knowledge than other methods, and that actual experiments are frequently subject to practical problems that undermine any claims to statistical or epistemic superiority. I illustrate using prominent experiments in development and elsewhere. As with IV methods, RCT-based evaluation of projects, without guidance from an understanding of underlying mechanisms, is unlikely to lead to scientific progress in the understanding of economic development. I welcome recent trends in development experimentation away from the evaluation of projects and toward the evaluation of theoretical mechanisms. (JEL C21, F35, O19)
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Literature.
Volume (Year): 48 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Other versions of this item:
- Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, randomization, and learning about development," Working Papers 1224, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
- C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
- F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid
- O19 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
You can help add them by filling out this form.
Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
- Economics: Art or Science?
by Maxine Udall (girl economist) in Maxine Udall Girl Economist on 2011-01-15 08:42:17
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros) or (Michael P. Albert).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.