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Instead of a Gold Standard, a Sanity Clause

The trouble with RCTs

Posted in Contemporary economics Tagged with: , ,

Ten years ago, Princeton University economist Angus Deaton used his Keynes Lecture to the British Academy to sound a note of caution about the new New Thing in development economics: the randomized controlled trial (RCT), or field experiment.  He recounted the general frustration with the failure of traditional econometric methods to swiftly unlock the secrets of economic development (and with the inability of development agencies to learn more from their own experience). He surveyed the rising enthusiasm for RCTs as an alternative path to reliable knowledge without the traditional fuss. He argued against the trend. “[E]xperiments have no special ability