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The method of randomization and the role of reasoned intuition

  • Basu, Kaushik

The method of randomization has been a major driver in the recent rise to prominence of empirical development economics. It has helped uncover patterns and facts that had earlier escaped attention. But it has also given rise to debate and controversy. This paper evaluates the method of randomization and concludes that, while the method of randomization is the gold standard for description, and does uncover what is here called'circumstantial causality,'it is not able to demonstrate generalized causality. Nor does it, in itself, lead to policy conclusions, as is often claimed by its advocates. To get to policy conclusions requires combining the findings of randomized experiments with human intuition, which, being founded in evolution, has innate strengths. Moreover, even non-randomized empirical methods combined with reasoned intuition can help in crafting development policy.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6722.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6722
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  1. Basu, Kaushik, 2003. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199261857.
  2. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
  3. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2009. "The Experimental Approach to Development Economics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 151-178, 05.
  4. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Instruments, randomization, and learning about development," Working Papers 1224, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  5. Hoover,Kevin D., 2001. "Causality in Macroeconomics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521452175.
  6. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1409-1443, 09.
  7. John Ifcher & Homa Zarghamee, 2011. "Happiness and Time Preference: The Effect of Positive Affect in a Random-Assignment Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3109-29, December.
  8. Dean Karlan & Nava Ashaf & Wesley Yin, 2004. "Tying odysseus to the mast: Evidence from a commitment savings product in the philippines," Natural Field Experiments 00206, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Manski, Charles F., 2013. "Public Policy in an Uncertain World: Analysis and Decisions," Economics Books, Harvard University Press, number 9780674066892.
  10. James Habyarimana & William Jack, 2012. "State vs Consumer Regulation: An Evaluation of Two Road Safety Interventions in Kenya," NBER Working Papers 18378, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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