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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: 23 January 2022

Trials and Tribulations

Trials and Tribulations

The Rise and Fall of the RCT in the WASH Sector

(p.166) 6 Trials and Tribulations
Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development

Dean Spears

Radu Ban

Oliver Cumming

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the WASH (Water Sanitation and Health) sector’s conversations about randomized intervention studies and draws lessons for development policy, more generally. Sanitation is a valuable case because, on the one hand, improving sanitation is widely recognized as a critical part of the development process, but, on the other hand, WASH interventions are often less well suited for randomized intervention evidence than other topics in health science or development economics. The chapter discusses a recent set of randomized trials which, far from definitively settling the important questions of rural sanitation policy, have renewed confusion and debate in the sector. Because even flawlessly designed and implemented sanitation interventions are likely to have different effects from one another and in different contexts, facts and theories from non-RCT sources are necessary (in addition to RCTs) to provide full and timely answers to sanitation policy questions. Finally, a case is made for the increased use of RCTs in the WASH sector where they might be more likely to help: to answer questions about behavior, rather than about health.

Keywords:   sanitation, randomized controlled trials, observational studies, externalities, child health

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