On Minimizing the Risk of Bias in Randomized Controlled Trials in Economics

74 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2016

See all articles by Alex Eble

Alex Eble

Brown University - Department of Economics

Peter Boone

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Diana Elbourne

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 18, 2016

Abstract

Estimation of empirical relationships is prone to bias. Economists have carefully studied sources of bias in structural and quasi-experimental approaches, but the randomized control trial (RCT) has only begun to receive such scrutiny. This paper argues that several lessons from medicine, derived from analysis of thousands of RCTs establishing a clear link between certain practices and biased estimates, can be used to reduce the risk of bias in economics RCTs. It identifies the subset of these lessons applicable to economics and uses them to assess risk of bias in estimates from economics RCTs published between 2001 and 2011. In comparison to medical studies, most economics studies examined do not report important details on study design necessary to assess risk of bias. Many report practices that suggest risk of bias, though this does not necessarily mean bias resulted. The paper concludes with suggestions on how to remedy these issues.

Keywords: Industrial Economics, Economic Growth, Economic Theory & Research

Suggested Citation

Eble, Alex and Boone, Peter and Elbourne, Diana, On Minimizing the Risk of Bias in Randomized Controlled Trials in Economics (July 18, 2016). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 7746. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2811394

Alex Eble (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Economics ( email )

64 Waterman Street
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.brown.edu/students/alexander_eble/index.htm

Peter Boone

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Diana Elbourne

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ( email )

Keppel Street
London, WC1E 7HT
United Kingdom

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