Toward an Ethical Experiment

36 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2020

See all articles by Yusuke Narita

Yusuke Narita

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

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

Suggested Citation

Narita, Yusuke, Toward an Ethical Experiment (January 10, 2019). 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

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics