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The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research

  • Gary Burtless

Social experiments have been used in research since the 1960s, yet the technique of controlled experimentation still arouses controversy among social scientists. The crucial element that distinguishes a controlled experiment from other forms of research is random assignment of treatment to the observational units of study. Because treatment differences in the sample occur as a result of random chance, the effects of the treatment on behavior can be measured with high reliability. This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of experiments in comparison with other research techniques and describes the circumstances where randomized trials should be preferred over other methods.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.9.2.63
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 9 (1995)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 63-84

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:9:y:1995:i:2:p:63-84
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.9.2.63
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  1. G. S. Maddala & Lung-Fei Lee, 1976. "Recursive Models with Qualitative Endogenous Variables," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 525-545 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thomas Fraker & Rebecca Maynard, 1987. "The Adequacy of Comparison Group Designs for Evaluations of Employment-Related Programs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 194-227.
  3. Burt S. Barnow, 1987. "The Impact of CETA Programs on Earnings: A Review of the Literature," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 22(2), pages 157-193.
  4. Caves, Douglas W. & Christensen, Laurits R., 1980. "Econometric analysis of residential time-of-use electricity pricing experiments," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 287-306, December.
  5. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-20, September.
  6. David Greenberg & Mark Shroder & Matthew Onstott, 1999. "The Social Experiment Market," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 157-172, Summer.
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