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randomization in the wild

From my inbox: Three enquiries on winsorizing, testing balance, and dealing with low take-up

David McKenzie's picture

I’ve been travelling the past week, and had several people contact me with questions about impact evaluation while away. I figured these might come up again, and so I’d put up the questions and answers here in case they are useful for others.
Question 1: Winsorizing – “do we do this on the whole sample, or do we do it within treatment and control, baseline and follow-up?”
Winsorizing is commonly used to deal with outliers, for example, you might set all data points above the 99th percentile equal to the 99th percentile. It is key here that you don’t use different cut-offs for treatment and control. For example, suppose you have a treatment for businesses that makes 4 percent of the treatment group grow their sales massively. If you winsorize separately at the 95th percentile of the treatment distribution for the treatment group and at the 95th percentile of the control distribution for the control groups, you might end up completely missing the treatment effect. I think it makes sense to do this with separate cutoffs by survey round to allow for seasonal effects and so you aren’t winsorizing more points from one round than another (which could be the case if you used the same global cutoffs for all rounds).

From my mailbox: should I work with only a subsample of my control group if I have big take-up problems?

David McKenzie's picture
Over the past month I’ve received several versions of the same question, so thought it might be useful to post about it.
Here’s one version:
I have a question about an experiment in which we had a very big problem getting the individuals in the treatment group to take-up the treatment. Therefore we now have a treatment much smaller than the control. For efficiency reasons does it still make sense to survey all the control group, or should we take a random draw in order to have an equal number of treated and control?
And another version

Tips for Randomization in the Wild: Adding a Waitlist

David McKenzie's picture
This is a relatively small point, but one that has come up several times in conversations in the last few months, so I thought it worth noting here.
Context: you are randomly selecting people for some program such as a training program, transfer program, etc. in which you expect less than 100% take-up of the treatment from those assigned to treatment. You are relying on an oversubscription design, in which more people apply for the course/program than you have slots.

The potential perils of blogging about ongoing experiments

David McKenzie's picture

One of the comments we got last week was a desire to see more “behind-the-scenes” posts of the trials and tribulations of trying to run an impact evaluation. I am sure we will do more of these, but there are many times I have thought about doing so and baulked for one of the following reasons:

When Randomization Goes Wrong...

Berk Ozler's picture

An important, and stressful, part of the job when conducting studies in the field is managing the number of things that do not go according to plan. Markus, in his series of field notes, has written about these (see, for example, here and here) roller coaster rides we call impact evaluations.

Helping new immigrants find work: a policy experiment in Sweden

David McKenzie's picture

Despite the large and growing literatures on migration in economics, sociology, and other social sciences, there is surprisingly little work which actually evaluates the impact of particular migration policies (most of the literature concerns the determinants of migrating, and the consequences of doing so for the migrants, their families, and for native workers). I am therefore always interested to see new work in this area, particularly work which manages to obtain experimental variation in policy implementation.