The Entry of Randomized Assignment into the Social Sciences

27 Pages Posted: 18 May 2017

See all articles by Julian C. Jamison

Julian C. Jamison

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics; World Bank eMBeD (Mind, Behavior, and Development); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); Innovations for Poverty Action

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Date Written: May 16, 2017

Abstract

Although the concept of randomized assignment to control for extraneous factors reaches back hundreds of years, the first empirical use appears to have been in an 1835 trial of homeopathic medicine. Throughout the 19th century, there was primarily a growing awareness of the need for careful comparison groups, albeit often without the realization that randomization could be a particularly clean method to achieve that goal. In the second and more crucial phase of this history, four separate but related disciplines introduced randomized control trials within a few years of one another in the 1920s: agricultural science, clinical medicine, educational psychology, and social policy (specifically political science). Randomized control trials brought more rigor to fields that were in the process of expanding their purviews and focusing more on causal relationships. In the third phase, the 1950s through the 1970s saw a surge of interest in more applied randomized experiments in economics and elsewhere, in the lab and especially in the field.

Keywords: Educational Populations, Education for Development (superceded), Education For All

Suggested Citation

Jamison, Julian C., The Entry of Randomized Assignment into the Social Sciences (May 16, 2017). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 8062. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2969643

Julian C. Jamison (Contact Author)

University of Exeter Business School - Department of Economics ( email )

Streatham Court
Exeter, EX4 4RJ
United Kingdom

World Bank eMBeD (Mind, Behavior, and Development) ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

30 Wadsworth Street, E53-320
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

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