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Randomized Control Trials in the Field of DevelopmentA Critical Perspective$
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Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin, and François Roubaud

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198865360

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198865360.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 December 2021

The Disruptive Power of RCTs

The Disruptive Power of RCTs

(p.108) 3 The Disruptive Power of RCTs
Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development

Jonathan Morduch

Oxford University Press

Two very different kinds of RCTs are used by economists, although they often get lumped together. The first kind is evaluative, used to assess whether a policy or intervention worked or not. Critics worry that privileging these RCTs over other evaluation methods can narrow knowledge. The second kind of RCT is exploratory, asking how behavior, institutions, and markets react to changing prices, contracts, and other economic features. By disrupting status quo economic conditions through experimental design, these exploratory RCTs open new questions for empirical micro-economics in ways that other methods cannot. One can be ambivalent about putting evaluative RCTs on a pedestal while also encouraging exploratory RCTs. Examples from RCTs of insurance, microcredit, and digital money illustrate the arguments.

Keywords:   randomized controlled trial, selection bias, experiment, microcredit, insurance, liquidity, interest elasticity, mobile banking

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