Cairo Evaluation Clinic: Thoughts on Randomized Trials for Evaluation of Development

9 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2009  

Dean S. Karlan

Yale University; Innovations for Poverty Action; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: June 26, 2009

Abstract

We were asked to discuss specific methodological approaches to evaluating three hypothetical interventions. This article uses this forum to discuss three misperceptions about randomized trials. First, nobody argues that randomized trials are appropriate in all settings, and for all questions. Everyone agrees that asking the right question is the highest priority. Second, the decision about what to measure and how to measure it, i.e., through qualitative or participatory methods versus quantitative survey or administrative data methods, is independent of the decision about whether to conduct a randomized trial. Third, randomized trials can be used to evaluate complex and dynamic processes, not just simple and static interventions. Evaluators should aim to answer the most important questions for future decisions, and to do so as reliably as possible. Reliability is improved with randomized trials, when feasible, and with attention to underlying theory and tests of why interventions work or fail so that lessons can be transferred as best as possible to other settings.

Keywords: program evaluation, randomized control trial

JEL Classification: B41, O12, H43, J08, H54, D73, D12

Suggested Citation

Karlan, Dean S., Cairo Evaluation Clinic: Thoughts on Randomized Trials for Evaluation of Development (June 26, 2009). Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 973; Yale Economics Department Working Paper No. 65. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1426130

Dean S. Karlan (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab ( email )

E60-246
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

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