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Some Reflections On Current Debates In Impact Evaluation


  • White, Howard

    () (International Initiative for Impact Evaluation)


A debate on approaches to impact evaluation has raged in development circles in recent years. This note gives some reflections on this debate through discussion of four issues. First, it is pointed out that there are two definitions of impact evaluation. Neither one is right or wrong, but they refer to completely different things. There is no point in methodological debates unless they agree a common starting point. Second, there is confusion between counterfactuals, which are implied by the definition of impact evaluation adopted in this paper, and control groups, which are not always necessary to construct a counterfactual. Third, calls for addressing contribution rather than attribution are also definitional, mistaking claims of attribution to mean sole attribution, which is does not. I then consider accusations of being 'positivist' and 'linear', which are, respectively, correct and unclear. Finally, these arguments do not mean that there is a hierarchy of methods, rather that quantitative approaches, including RCTs, are often the best available methods, having the added advantage of allowing analysis of cost effectiveness.

Suggested Citation

  • White, Howard, 2009. "Some Reflections On Current Debates In Impact Evaluation," 3ie Publications 2009-1, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:iiierp:2009_001

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    Cited by:

    1. Глущенко К. П., 2012. "Оценка эффективности транспортных проектов: опыт и проблемы (часть 2). Transport project appraisal: experience and problems (part 2)," Мир экономики и управления // Вестник НГУ. Cерия: Cоциально-экономические науки, Socionet;Новосибирский государственный университет, vol. 12(1), pages 40-46.
    2. World Bank, 2011. "Measuring Changes in Client Lives through Microfinance : Contributions of Different Approaches," World Bank Other Operational Studies 9452, The World Bank.
    3. Paul Shaffer, 2012. "Beneath the ‘methods debate’ in impact assessment: baring assumptions of a mixed methods impact assessment in Vietnam," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 134-150, March.
    4. repec:eee:wdevel:v:106:y:2018:i:c:p:376-392 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Alison Buttenheim, 2010. "Impact evaluation in the post-disaster setting: a case study of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(2), pages 197-227.
    6. Gala Díaz Langou & Vanesa Weyrauch, 2013. "Sound expectations: from impact evaluations to policy change," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 269-304, September.
    7. Howard White, 2009. "Theory-based impact evaluation: principles and practice," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(3), pages 271-284.

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    attribution; counterfactual; impact evaluation;

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