Toward an Ethical Experiment

104 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 27 Oct 2018

See all articles by Yusuke Narita

Yusuke Narita

Yale University - Department of Economics; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Date Written: September 14, 2018


Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) enroll hundreds of millions of subjects and involve many human lives. To improve subjects’ welfare, I propose an experimental design that (1) produces a Pareto efficient allocation of treatment assignment probabilities, (2) is asymptotically incentive compatible for preference elicitation, and (3) unbiasedly estimates any causal effect estimable with standard RCTs. I quantify these properties by applying my proposal to a water cleaning experiment in Kenya (Kremer et al., 2011). Compared to standard RCTs, my design substantially improves subjects’ predicted well-being while reaching similar treatment effect estimates with similar precision.

Keywords: Research Ethics, Clinical Trial, Social Experiment, A/B Test, Market Design, Causal Inference, Development Economics, Spring Protection, Discrete Choice

Suggested Citation

Narita, Yusuke, Toward an Ethical Experiment (September 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Yusuke Narita (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Yale University - Cowles Foundation ( email )

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

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