Mechanism Experiments and Policy Evaluations
40 Pages Posted: 23 May 2011 Last revised: 14 Feb 2021
Date Written: May 2011
Randomized controlled trials are increasingly used to evaluate policies. How can we make these experiments as useful as possible for policy purposes? We argue greater use should be made of experiments that identify behavioral mechanisms that are central to clearly specified policy questions, what we call "mechanism experiments." These types of experiments can be of great policy value even if the intervention that is tested (or its setting) does not correspond exactly to any realistic policy option.
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