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Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments

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  • Chassang, Sylvain
  • Padró i Miquel, Gerard
  • Snowberg, Erik

Abstract

We study the design of randomized controlled experiments in environments where outcomes are significantly affected by unobserved effort decisions taken by the subjects (agents). While standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are internally consistent, the unobservability of effort provision compromises external validity. We approach trial design as a principal-agent problem and show that natural extensions of RCTs--which we call selective trials--can help improve the external validity of experiments. In particular, selective trials can disentangle the effects of treatment, effort, and the interaction of treatment and effort. Moreover, they can help experimenters identify when measured treatment effects are affected by erroneous beliefs and inappropriate effort provision.

Suggested Citation

  • Chassang, Sylvain & Padró i Miquel, Gerard & Snowberg, Erik, 2010. "Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments," CEPR Discussion Papers 8003, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8003
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    blind trials; compliance; heterogeneous beliefs; incentivized trials; marginal treatment e ects; mechanism design; randomized controlled trials; selection; selective trials;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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