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Technical Problems in Social Experimentation: Cost versus Ease of Analysis

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  • Jerry A. Hausman
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

The goal of the paper is to set forth general guidelines that we believe would enhance the usefulness of future social experiments and to suggest ways of correcting for inherent limitations of them. Although the major motivation for an experiment is to overcome the inherent limitations of structural econometric models, in many instances the experimental designs have subverted this motivation. The primary advantages of randomized controlled experiments were often lost. The major complication for the analysis of the experiments was induced by an endogenous sample selection and treatment assignment procedure that selected the experimental participants and assigned them to controlversus treatment groups partly on the basis of the variable whose response the experiments were intended to measure. We propose that to overcome these difficulties, the goal of an experimental design should be as nearly as possible to allow analysis based on a simple analysis of variance model. Although complexities attendant to endogenous stratification can be avoided, there are inherent limitations of the experiments that cannot. Two major ones are self-determination of participation and self-selection out, through attrition.But these problems, we believe, can be corrected for with relative ease if endogenous stratification is eliminated. Finally, we propose that as a guiding principle, the experiments should have as a first priority the precise estimation of a single or a small number of treatment effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Jerry A. Hausman & David A. Wise, 1983. "Technical Problems in Social Experimentation: Cost versus Ease of Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1061
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Conlisk, John, 1973. "Choice of Response Functional Form in Designing Subsidy Experiments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(4), pages 643-656, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1997. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," NBER Working Papers 5964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Orley Ashenfelter & David Ashmore & Olivier Deschenes, 1998. "Do Unemployment Insurance Recipients Actively Seek Work? Randomized Trials in Four U.S. States," Working Papers 791, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    3. Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Supply, Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," NBER Working Papers 7001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. V. Kerry Smith & William H. Desvousges & F. Reed Johnson & Ann Fisher, 1990. "Can public information programs affect risk perceptions?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(1), pages 41-59.
    5. Ashenfelter, Orley & Ashmore, David & Deschenes, Olivier, 2005. "Do unemployment insurance recipients actively seek work? Evidence from randomized trials in four U.S. States," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 53-75.
    6. Mullahy, John & Sindelar, Jody, 1996. "Employment, unemployment, and problem drinking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 409-434, August.
    7. Guido W. Imbens & Donald B. Rubin & Bruce I. Sacerdote, 2001. "Estimating the Effect of Unearned Income on Labor Earnings, Savings, and Consumption: Evidence from a Survey of Lottery Players," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 778-794, September.

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