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Randomisation and Its Discontents


  • Glenn W. Harrison


Randomised control trials have become popular tools in development economics. The key idea is to exploit deliberate or naturally occurring randomisation of treatments in order to make causal inferences about "what works" to promote some development objective. The expression"what works" is crucial: the emphasis is on evidence-based conclusions that will have immediate policy use. No room for good intentions, wishful thinking, ideological biases, Washington Consensus, cost-benefit calculations or even parametric stochastic assumptions. A valuable byproduct has been the identification of questions that other methods might answer, or that subsequent randomised evaluations might address. An unattractive byproduct has been the dumbing down of econometric practice, the omission of any cost-benefit analytics and an arrogance towards other methodologies. Fortunately, the latter are gratuitous, and the former point towards important complementarities in methods to help address knotty, substantive issues in development economics. Copyright 2011 , Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Glenn W. Harrison, 2011. "Randomisation and Its Discontents," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 20(4), pages 626-652, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jafrec:v:20:y:2011:i:4:p:626-652

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Clarida, Richard & Gali, Jordi & Gertler, Mark, 1998. "Monetary policy rules in practice Some international evidence," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1033-1067, June.
    2. Stasavage, David, 1997. "The CFA Franc Zone and Fiscal Discipline," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 6(1), pages 132-167, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berber Kramer, 2016. "When expectations become aspirations: reference-dependent preferences and liquidity constraints," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 61(4), pages 685-721, April.
    2. Florent Bedecarrats & Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, 2017. "L'étalon-or des évaluations randomisées : du discours de la méthode à l'économie politique," Working Papers ird-01445209, HAL.
    3. Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & Hong Il Yoo, 2017. "Risk Attitudes, Sample Selection and Attrition in a Longitudinal Field Experiment," Working Papers 2017_07, Durham University Business School.
    4. Florent Bédécarrats & Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, 2015. "The gold standard for randomised evaluations: from discussion of method to political economics," Working Papers CEB 15-009, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    5. Judith Favereau & Nicolas Brisset, 2016. "Randomization of What? Moving from Libertarian to "Democratic Paternalism"," GREDEG Working Papers 2016-34, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

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