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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 A. 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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Technical Working Papers with number 0295.

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Date of creation: Oct 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberte:0295

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Jacob A. Klerman, 2001. "The Long-Term Gains from GAIN: A Re-Analysis of the Impacts of the California GAIN Program," Working Papers 01-03, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  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. Orley Ashenfelter, 1990. "Non-Parametric Estimates of the Labor Supply Effects of Negative Income Tax Programs," Working Papers 639, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  6. repec:fth:prinin:380 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Hugo Benítez Silva & Richard Disney & Sergi Jiménez-Martín, 2009. "Disability, capacity for work and the business cycle: An international perspective," Economics Working Papers 1171, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  2. Ravallion, Martin, 2008. "Evaluating Anti-Poverty Programs," Handbook of Development Economics, Elsevier.
  3. World Bank, 2007. "Poverty and Environment : Understanding Linkages at the Household Level," World Bank Other Operational Studies 7744, The World Bank.
  4. Jeffrey R. Kling, 2007. "Methodological Frontiers of Public Finance Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 12931, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. World Bank, 2007. "Poverty and Environment : Understanding Linkages at the Household Level," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6924, August.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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