Easterly on the limits of RCTs

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Bill Easterly has a very nice post summarizing many of the concerns around randomized control trials (RCTs). The summary overlaps with some of the points I tried to make here, here, and here. Money quote from Easterly's post:

RCTs are infeasible for many of the big questions in development, like the economy-wide effects of good institutions or good macroeconomic policies. Some RCT proponents have (rather naively) claimed RCTs could revolutionize social policy, making it dramatically more effective – this claim itself can ironically not be tested with RCTs. Otherwise, embracing RCTs has led development researchers to lower their ambitions. This is probably a GOOD thing in foreign aid, where outsiders cannot hope to induce social transformation anyway and just finding some things that work for poor people is a reasonable outcome. But RCTs are usually less relevant for understanding overall economic development.


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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