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The role of randomized field trials in social science research: a perspective from evaluations of reforms of social welfare programs

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  • Robert Moffitt

Abstract

One of the areas of policy research where randomized field trials have been utilized most intensively is welfare reform. Starting in the late 1960s with experimental tests of a negative income tax and continuing through current experimental tests of recent welfare reforms, randomized evaluations have played a strong and increasing role in informing policy. This paper reviews the record of these experiments and assesses the implications of that record for the use of randomization. The review demonstrates that, while randomized field trials in the area of welfare reform have been professionally conducted and well-run, and have yielded much valuable and credible information, their usefulness has been limited by a number of weaknesses, some of which are inherent in the method and some of which result from constraints imposed by the political process. The conclusion is that randomized field trials have an important but limited role to play in future welfare reform evaluations, and that it is essential that they be supplemented by nonexperimental research.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series CeMMAP working papers with number CWP23/02.

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Length: 38 pp.
Date of creation: Dec 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:23/02

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  1. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Jacob A. Klerman, 2000. "The Long-Term Gains from GAIN: A Re-Analysis of the Impacts of the California GAIN Program," NBER Working Papers 8007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ashenfelter, Orley & Plant, Mark W, 1990. "Nonparametric Estimates of the Labor-Supply Effects of Negative Income Tax Programs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S396-415, January.
  3. Gary Burtless, 1986. "The work response to a guaranteed income: a survey of experimental evidence," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 30, pages 22-59.
  4. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  5. Robert A. Moffitt, 1996. "The effect of employment and training programs on entry and exit from the welfare caseload," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(1), pages 32-50.
  6. David Card & Philip K. Robins & Winston Lin, 1998. "Would Financial Incentives for Leaving Welfare Lead Some People to Stay on Welfare Longer? An Experimental Evaluation of 'Entry Effects' in the SSP," NBER Working Papers 6449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Julie H. Mortimer, 1999. "Predicting the Efficacy of Future Training Programs Using Past Experiences," NBER Technical Working Papers 0238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. repec:fth:prinin:380 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  10. Michael J. Camasso & Radha Jagannathan & Carol Harvey & Mark Killingsworth, 2003. "The use of client surveys to gauge the threat of contamination in welfare reform experiments," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(2), pages 207-223.
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Cited by:
  1. Nagy, Gyula & Micklewright, John, 2006. "Az álláskeresés ellenőrzése és a munkanélküliség időtartama. Egy társadalomtudományi kísérlet
    [Job-search monitoring and unemployment duration: evidence from a randomized control tria
    ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 641-660.
  2. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Richard Disney & Sergi Jiménez-Martín, 2010. "Disability, capacity for work and the business cycle: an international perspective," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 25, pages 483-536, 07.
  3. Jeffrey R. Kling, 2007. "Methodological Frontiers of Public Finance Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12931, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ravallion, Martin, 2005. "Evaluating anti-poverty programs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3625, The World Bank.
  5. World Bank, 2007. "Poverty and Environment : Understanding Linkages at the Household Level," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6924, August.
  6. World Bank, 2007. "Poverty and Environment : Understanding Linkages at the Household Level," World Bank Other Operational Studies 7744, The World Bank.
  7. Ted Joyce & Robert Kaestner & Sanders Korenman & Stanley Henshaw, 2004. "Family Cap Provisions and Changes in Births and Abortions," NBER Working Papers 10214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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