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An introduction to the use of randomized control trials to evaluate development interventions


  • White, Howard

    () (International Initiative for Impact Evaluation)


RCTs have become popular in the development community as part of the response to the results agenda. These studies are well placed to address the question of which programmes work or not. And, properly designed, they can be embedded in a broader evaluation design which also addresses questions of why an intervention works in a specific context or not, and at what cost. Usually the appropriate design will not be a simple randomization drawn from an eligible list. So there are several decisions to be made in designing a RCT, and these decisions should be recorded in a study protocol which is placed in the public domain before the study begins. Many of the criticisms of RCTs can be responded to. But some require more reflection and research and have implications for the conduct of RCTs.

Suggested Citation

  • White, Howard, 2011. "An introduction to the use of randomized control trials to evaluate development interventions," 3ie Publications 2011-9, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:iiierp:2011_009

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anju Vajja & Howard White, 2008. "Can the World Bank Build Social Capital? The Experience of Social Funds in Malawi and Zambia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(8), pages 1145-1168.
    2. White, Howard, 2009. "Theory-Based Impact Evaluation," 3ie Publications 2009-3, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).
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    Cited by:

    1. Bob Baulch, 2011. "The medium-term impact of the primary education stipend in rural Bangladesh," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(2), pages 243-262.
    2. Gaarder, Marie & Annan, Jeannie, 2013. "Impact evaluation of conflict prevention and peacebuilding interventions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6496, The World Bank.
    3. Wim Naudé, 2011. "Foreign Aid for Innovation: The Missing Ingredient in Private Sector Development?," Working Papers 2011/35, Maastricht School of Management.
    4. repec:eee:epplan:v:68:y:2018:i:c:p:47-56 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:pal:eurjdr:v:29:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1057_s41287-017-0103-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ruth Stewart & Carina van Rooyen & Thea de Wet, 2012. "Purity or pragmatism? Reflecting on the use of systematic review methodology in development," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 430-444, September.

    More about this item


    randomized control trials; impact evaluation;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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