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Randomization in the Tropics Revisited: a Theme and Eleven Variations


  • Angus Deaton


Randomized controlled trials have been used in economics for 50 years, and intensively in economic development for more than 20. There has been a great deal of useful work, but RCTs have no unique advantages or disadvantages over other empirical methods in economics. They do not simplify inference, nor can an RCT establish causality. Many of the difficulties were recognized and explored in economics 30 years ago, but are sometimes forgotten. I review some of the most relevant issues here. The most troubling questions concern ethics, especially when very poor people are experimented on. Finding out what works, even if such a thing is possible, is in itself a deeply inadequate basis for policy

Suggested Citation

  • Angus Deaton, 2020. "Randomization in the Tropics Revisited: a Theme and Eleven Variations," NBER Working Papers 27600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27600
    Note: AG DEV HC HE

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    Cited by:

    1. Stefano Caria & Grant Gordon & Maximilian Kasy & Simon Quinn & Soha Shami & Alexander Teytelboym, 2020. "An Adaptive Targeted Field Experiment: Job Search Assistance for Refugees in Jordan," CESifo Working Paper Series 8535, CESifo.

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    JEL classification:

    • C01 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - General - - - Econometrics
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • O22 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Project Analysis

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