Toward an Ethical Experiment
36 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2020
Date Written: January 10, 2019
Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) enroll hundreds of millions of subjects and involve many human lives. To improve subjects’ welfare, I propose a design of RCTs that I call Experiment-as-Market (EXAM). EXAM produces a welfare-maximizing allocation of treatment assignment probabilities, is almost incentive compatible for preference elicitation, and unbiasedly estimates any causal effect estimable with standard RCTs. I quantify these properties by applying EXAM to a water cleaning experiment in Kenya. In this empirical setting, compared to standard RCTs, EXAM improves subjects’ predicted well-being while reaching similar treatment effect estimates with similar precision.
Keywords: social experiment | clinical trial | A/B test | mechanism design | experi- mental design | development economics
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