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Cairo Evaluation Clinic: Thoughts on Randomized Trials for Evaluation of Development

  • Dean Karlan

    ()

    (Yale University, Innovations for Poverty Action and Jameel Poverty Action Lab)

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    We were asked to discuss specific methodological approaches to evaluating three hypothetical interventions. This article uses this forum to discuss three misperceptions about randomized trials. First, nobody argues that randomized trials are appropriate in all settings, and for all questions. Everyone agrees that asking the right question is the highest priority. Second, the decision about what to measure and how to measure it, i.e., through qualitative or participatory methods versus quantitative survey or administrative data methods, is independent of the decision about whether to conduct a randomized trial. Third, randomized trials can be used to evaluate complex and dynamic processes, not just simple and static interventions. Evaluators should aim to answer the most important questions for future decisions, and to do so as reliably as possible. Reliability is improved with randomized trials, when feasible, and with attention to underlying theory and tests of why interventions work or fail so that lessons can be transferred as best as possible to other settings.

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    File URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp973.pdf
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    Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 973.

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    Length: 9 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2009
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:973
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    1. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2007. "Expanding Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts," Working Papers 108, Center for Global Development.
    2. Dean Karlan & Martin Valdivia, 2011. "Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 510-527, May.
    3. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2001. "Women's Leadership and Policy Decisions: Evidence from a Nationwide Randomized Experiment in India," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-114, Boston University - Department of Economics.
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