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Mechanism Experiments and Policy Evaluations

  • Jens Ludwig
  • Jeffrey R. Kling
  • Sendhil Mullainathan

Randomized controlled trials are increasingly used to evaluate policies. How can we make these experiments as useful as possible for policy purposes? We argue greater use should be made of experiments that identify behavioral mechanisms that are central to clearly specified policy questions, what we call "mechanism experiments." These types of experiments can be of great policy value even if the intervention that is tested (or its setting) does not correspond exactly to any realistic policy option.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17062.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Publication status: published as Jens Ludwig & Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2011. "Mechanism Experiments and Policy Evaluations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 17-38, Summer.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17062
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  1. Christopher Jepsen & Steven Rivkin, 2009. "Class Size Reduction and Student Achievement: The Potential Tradeoff between Teacher Quality and Class Size," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
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  8. John DiNardo & David S. Lee, 2010. "Program Evaluation and Research Designs," NBER Working Papers 16016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Elizabeth A. Stuart & Stephen R. Cole & Catherine P. Bradshaw & Philip J. Leaf, 2011. "The use of propensity scores to assess the generalizability of results from randomized trials," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 174(2), pages 369-386, 04.
  10. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2009. "How large are returns to schooling? Hint: Money isn't everything," NBER Working Papers 15339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Lisa Sanbonmatsu & Jeffrey R. Kling & Greg J. Duncan & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2006. "Neighborhoods and Academic Achievement: Results from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(4).
  12. Justine S. Hastings & Lydia Tejeda-Ashton, 2008. "Financial Literacy, Information, and Demand Elasticity: Survey and Experimental Evidence from Mexico," NBER Working Papers 14538, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role Of Information And Social Interactions In Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence From A Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842, August.
  14. Anup Malani, 2006. "Identifying Placebo Effects with Data from Clinical Trials," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(2), pages 236-256, April.
  15. Bruce D. Meyer, 1994. "Natural and Quasi- Experiments in Economics," NBER Technical Working Papers 0170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2004. "Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," NBER Working Papers 10777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Bisakha Sen & Stephen Mennemeyer & Lisa C. Gary, 2009. "The Relationship Between Neighborhood Quality and Obesity Among Children," NBER Working Papers 14985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records: Errata," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1284-86, December.
  19. Joseph Hotz, V. & Imbens, Guido W. & Mortimer, Julie H., 2005. "Predicting the efficacy of future training programs using past experiences at other locations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 241-270.
  20. Joshua Angrist, 1989. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," Working Papers 631, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  21. Katz, Lawrence & Duncan, Greg J. & Kling, Jeffrey R. & Kessler, Ronald C. & Ludwig, Jens & Sanbonmatsu, Lisa & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2008. "What Can We Learn about Neighborhood Effects from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment?," Scholarly Articles 2766959, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  22. Jane G. Fortson & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2010. "Child Health and Neighborhood Conditions: Results from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(4), pages 840-864.
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