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The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research

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  • Gary Burtless

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
  • 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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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.9.2.63
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-620, September.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Gary Burtless, 1985. "Are Targeted Wage Subsidies Harmful? Evidence from a Wage Voucher Experiment," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 39(1), pages 105-114, October.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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