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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1729274
 
 

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Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments


Sylvain Chassang


Princeton University - Department of Economics

Gerard Padro I. Miquel


London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Erik Snowberg


California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

December 21, 2010

Economic Theory Center Working Paper No. 003-2010

Abstract:     
We study the design of randomized controlled experiments in environments where outcomes are significantly affected by unobserved effort decisions taken by the subjects (agents). While standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are internally consistent, the unobservability of effort provision compromises external validity. We approach trial design as a principal-agent problem and show that natural extensions of RCTs - which we call selective trials - can help improve the external validity of experiments. In particular, selective trials can disentangle the effects of treatment, effort, and the interaction of treatment and effort. Moreover, they can help experimenters identify when measured treatment effects are affected by erroneous beliefs and inappropriate effort provision.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Randomized Controlled Trials, Selective Trials, Blind Trials, Incentivized Trials, Marginal Treatment Effects, Mechanism Design, Selection, Heterogeneous Beliefs, Compliance

JEL Classification: C81, C93, D82, O12

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Date posted: December 22, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Chassang, Sylvain and Padro I. Miquel, Gerard and Snowberg, Erik, Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments (December 21, 2010). Economic Theory Center Working Paper No. 003-2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1729274 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1729274

Contact Information

Sylvain Chassang (Contact Author)
Princeton University - Department of Economics ( email )
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Gerard Padro I. Miquel
London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Erik Snowberg
California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )
1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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