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

Author

Listed:
  • 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)

Suggested Citation

  • Sylvain Chassang & Gerard Padro I Miquel & Erik Snowberg, 2012. "Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1279-1309, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:4:p:1279-1309
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O22 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Project Analysis

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