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Impoverished economics? A critical assessment of the new gold standard

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  • Kvangraven, Ingrid Harvold

Abstract

This article situates the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in the history of thought on development, tracing how the focus, theory and methods have shifted in the field. The article evaluates theoretical and methodological critiques of the way randomized control trials (RCTs) are employed by the laureates, as well as attempts to overcome these challenges. In terms of theory, the article demonstrates what gets lost when experiments are guided by methodological individualism and assumptions of individual utility-maximizing behavior. In terms of methodology, the article unpacks the limits of RCTs related to their causal model, and their lack of attention to human agency and wider socio-economic context. Finally, the article discusses the experimental approach’s relevance for research and policy-making and cautions against any approach becoming a “gold standard,” due to the importance of pluralism for maintaining an open debate about development.

Suggested Citation

  • Kvangraven, Ingrid Harvold, 2020. "Impoverished economics? A critical assessment of the new gold standard," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:127:y:2020:i:c:s0305750x19304620
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104813
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Esther Duflo, 2012. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1079, December.
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    5. Deaton, Angus & Cartwright, Nancy, 2018. "Understanding and misunderstanding randomized controlled trials," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 210(C), pages 2-21.
    6. Rachael Meager, 2019. "Understanding the Average Impact of Microcredit Expansions: A Bayesian Hierarchical Analysis of Seven Randomized Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 57-91, January.
    7. Meager, Rachael, 2019. "Understanding the average impact of microcredit expansions: a Bayesian hierarchical analysis of seven randomized experiments," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 88190, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. Prebisch, Raúl, 1950. "The economic development of Latin America and its principal problems," Sede de la CEPAL en Santiago (Estudios e Investigaciones) 29973, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    9. Christopher Blattman & Stefan Dercon, 2018. "The Impacts of Industrial and Entrepreneurial Work on Income and Health: Experimental Evidence from Ethiopia," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 1-38, July.
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