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All that Glitters is not Gold. The Political Economy of Randomized Evaluations in Development

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  • Florent Bédécarrats
  • Isabelle Guérin
  • François Roubaud

Abstract

Randomized control trials (RCTs) have a narrow scope, restricted to basic intervention schemes. Experimental designs also display specific biases and political uses when implemented in the real world. Despite these limitations, the method has been advertised as the gold standard to evaluate development policies. This article adopts a political economy approach to explore this paradox. It argues that the success of RCTs is driven mainly by a new scientific business model based on a mix of simplicity and mathematical rigour, media and donor appeal, and academic and financial returns. This in turn meets current interests and preferences in the academic world and the donor community.

Suggested Citation

  • Florent Bédécarrats & Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, 2019. "All that Glitters is not Gold. The Political Economy of Randomized Evaluations in Development," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 50(3), pages 735-762, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:devchg:v:50:y:2019:i:3:p:735-762
    DOI: 10.1111/dech.12378
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