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fighting strawmen

Have RCTs taken over development economics?

David McKenzie's picture

Last week the “State of Economics, State of the World” conference was held at the World Bank. I had the pleasure of discussing (along with Martin Ravallion) Esther Duflo’s talk on “The Influence of Randomized Controlled Trials on Development Economics Research and on Development Policy”. The website should have links to the papers and video stream replay up (if not already, then soon).

The first part of Esther’s talk traced out the growth in RCTs in development economics. She pointed out that in 2000 the top-5 journals published 21 articles in development, of which 0 were RCTs, while in 2015 there were 32, of which 10 were RCTs – so pretty much all the growth in development papers in top journals comes from RCTs. She also showed that the more recently BREAD members had received their PhD, the more likely they were to have done at least one RCT.
In my discussion I expanded on these facts to put them in context, and argue against what I see as a couple of strawman arguments: 1) that top journals only publish RCTs, and that RCTs have taken over development research; and 2) that young researchers have a “randomize or bust” attitude and refuse to do anything but RCTs. I thought I’d summarize what I said on both here.

Learn to live without external validity

Berk Ozler's picture
We promised some time ago to review the recent working paper by Pritchett and Sandefur on external validity, and the title of this post is the main take-away for me: my name is Berk Özler and I agree with this specific message. However, while I’d like to say that there is much more here, I am afraid that I, personally, did not find more to write home about...

Does Angus Deaton worry too much about wolves eating his t-values?

David McKenzie's picture

In his latest Letter from America in the Royal Economic Society’s newsletter, Angus Deaton says “your wolf is interfering with my t-value” (the title refers in part to regulations on hunting wolves in the American West) and talks about excessive regulation with NIH grants, and his concerns with the move towards trial registries: