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What can experiments tell us about how to improve governance?

  • Gisselquist, Rachel
  • Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel

In recent years, randomized controlled trials have become increasingly popular in the social sciences. In development economics in particular, their use has attracted considerable debate in relation to the identification of ‘what works’ in development policy. This paper focuses on a core topic in development policy: governance. It aims to address two key questions: (1) what have the main contributions of randomized controlled trials been to the study of governance? and (2) what could be the contributions, and relatedly the limits of such methods? To address these questions, a systematic review of experimental and quasi-experimental methods to study government performance was conducted. It identified 139 relevant papers grouped into three major types of policy interventions that aim to: (1) improve supply-side capabilities of governments; (2) change individual behaviour through various devices, notably incentives, and (3) improve informational asymmetries. We find that randomized controlled trials can be useful in studying the effects of some policy interventions in the governance area, but they are limited in significant ways: they are ill-equipped to study broader governance issues associated with macro-structural shifts, national level variation in institutions and political culture, and leadership. Randomized controlled trials are best for studying targeted interventions, particularly in areas of public goods provision, voting behaviour, and specific measures to address corruption and improve accountability; however, they can provide little traction on whether the intervention is transferable and ‘could work’ (and why) in other contexts, and in the longer run.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 49300.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49300
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  1. Benjamin A. Olken, 2007. "Monitoring Corruption: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Indonesia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 200-249.
  2. Duflo, Esther & Hanna, Rema, 2005. "Monitoring Works: Getting Teachers to Come to School," CEPR Discussion Papers 5426, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Kremer, Michael & Miguel, Edward & Thornton, Rebecca & Ozier, Owen, 2005. "Incentives to learn," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3546, The World Bank.
  4. Leonard Wantchekon, 2003. "Clientelism and voting behavior: Evidence from a field experiment in benin," Natural Field Experiments 00339, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Paul Collier & Pedro C Vicente, 2008. "Votes and Violence: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria," CSAE Working Paper Series 2008-16, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  6. Thomas Dee, 2009. "Conditional cash penalties in education: Evidence from the learnfare experiment," Framed Field Experiments 00199, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee & Alice H. Amsden & Robert H. Bates & Jagdish Bhagwati & Angus Deaton & Nicholas Stern, 2007. "Making Aid Work," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262026155, June.
  8. Priyanka Pandey & Sangeeta Goyal & Venkatesh Sundararaman, 2009. "Community participation in public schools: impact of information campaigns in three Indian states," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 355-375.
  9. F Javier Mato Diaz, 2012. "Poor Economics. A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 24(5), pages 832-834, December.
  10. Abhijit Banerjee & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo & Daniel Keniston & Nina Singh, 2012. "Can Institutions be Reformed from Within? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment with the Rajasthan Police," Working Papers id:4813, eSocialSciences.
  11. Martina Björkman & Jakob Svensson, 2009. "Power to the People: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment on Community-Based Monitoring in Uganda," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 735-769, May.
  12. Stella A. Quimbo & John W. Peabody & Riti Shimkhada & Jhiedon Florentino & Orville Solon, 2011. "Evidence of a causal link between health outcomes, insurance coverage, and a policy to expand access: experimental data from children in the Philippines," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(5), pages 620-630, May.
  13. Gisselquist, Rachel M., 2012. "Good Governance as a Concept, and Why This Matters for Development Policy," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  14. Kenneth Goldin, 1977. "Equal access vs. Selective access: A critique of public goods theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 29(1), pages 53-71, March.
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