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The gold standard for randomised evaluations: from discussion of method to political economics

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  • Florent Bédécarrats
  • Isabelle Guérin
  • François Roubaud

Abstract

This last decade has seen the emergence of a new field of research in development economics: randomised control trials. This paper explores the contrast between the (many) limitations and (very narrow) real scope of these methods and their success in sheer number and media coverage. Our analysis suggests that the paradox is due to a particular economic and political mix driven by the innovative strategies used by the new school’s researchers and by specific interests and preferences in the academic world and the donor community.

Suggested Citation

  • Florent Bédécarrats & Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, 2015. "The gold standard for randomised evaluations: from discussion of method to political economics," Working Papers CEB 15-009, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/196617
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tanguy Bernard & Jocelyne Delarue & Jean-David Naudet, 2012. "Impact evaluations: a tool for accountability? Lessons from experience at Agence Française de Développement," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(2), pages 314-327, June.
    2. Michael Rosholm & Lars Skipper, 2009. "Is labour market training a curse for the unemployed? Evidence from a social experiment," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 338-365, March.
    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2009. "Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist's Companion," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8769.
    4. Morvant-Roux, Solène & Guérin, Isabelle & Roesch, Marc & Moisseron, Jean-Yves, 2014. "Adding Value to Randomization with Qualitative Analysis: The Case of Microcredit in Rural Morocco," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 302-312.
    5. Howard White, 2014. "Current Challenges in Impact Evaluation," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 26(1), pages 18-30, January.
    6. Martin Ravallion, 2009. "Evaluation in the Practice of Development," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 24(1), pages 29-53, March.
    7. Labrousse, Agnès, 2010. "Nouvelle économie du développement et essais cliniques randomisés : une mise en perspective d’un outil de preuve et de gouvernement," Revue de la Régulation - Capitalisme, institutions, pouvoirs, Association Recherche et Régulation, vol. 7.
    8. Daron Acemoglu, 2010. "Theory, General Equilibrium, and Political Economy in Development Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 17-32, Summer.
    9. James Heckman & Jeffrey Smith & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Accounting For Dropouts In Evaluations Of Social Programs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 1-14, February.
    10. James J. Heckman, 1991. "Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation Revisited," NBER Technical Working Papers 0107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Glenn W. Harrison, 2011. "Randomisation and Its Discontents," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 20(4), pages 626-652, August.
    12. Abhijit Banerjee & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2015. "Six Randomized Evaluations of Microcredit: Introduction and Further Steps," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 1-21, January.
    13. Florent Bédécarrats, 2012. "L'impact de la microfinance : un enjeu politique au prisme de ses controverses scientifiques," Mondes en développement, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(2), pages 127-142.
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    Cited by:

    1. Florent Bédécarrats & Isabelle Guérin & François Roubaud, 2019. "All that Glitters is not Gold. The Political Economy of Randomized Evaluations in Development," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 50(3), pages 735-762, May.
    2. Naila Kabeer, 2017. "Economic Pathways to Women’s Empowerment and Active Citizenship: What Does The Evidence From Bangladesh Tell Us?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(5), pages 649-663, May.
    3. Gloukoviezoff, Georges, 2016. "Evaluating the impact of European microfinance. The foundations," EIF Working Paper Series 2016/33, European Investment Fund (EIF).
    4. Naila Kabeer, 2016. "Gender Equality, Economic Growth, and Women's Agency: the "Endless Variety" and "Monotonous Similarity" of Patriarchal Constraints," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 295-321, January.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Impact evaluation; randomised control trial; experimental method; political economy; development;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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