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The Randomistas just won the Nobel Economics prize. Here’s why RCTs aren’t a magic bullet.

October 15, 2019
Lant Pritchett once likened Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to flared jeans. On the way out and soon we’d be wondering what on earth we’d seen in them. Not so fast. Yesterday, three of the leading ‘Randomistas’ won the Nobel economics prize (before the pedants jump in, strictly speaking it’s the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred

Naila Kabeer on Why Randomized Controlled Trials need to include Human Agency

June 7, 2019
Guest post and 20m interview with Naila Kabeer on her new paper There’s a buzz abroad in the development community around a new way to tackle extreme poverty. BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) programme combines asset transfers (usually livestock), cash stipends and intensive mentoring to women and families in extreme poverty in order to help them ‘graduate’ into more

How did the Randomistas get so good at influencing Policy?

January 18, 2019
I’m a critic of the degree of overselling of randomized control trials (RCTs), but there’s no denying that the randomistas have been phenomenally successful snake oil salesmen and women, persuading large chunks of Big Aid to adopt their approach to what constitutes evidence and truthiness. If you want to learn how they did it, try reading their 3 part blog

The evidence debate continues: Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon respond from DFID

January 23, 2013
Yesterday Chris Roche and Rosalind Eyben set out their concerns over the results agenda. Today Chris Whitty (left), DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser and Stefan Dercon (right), its Chief Economist, respond. It is common ground that “No-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions.” Neither would anyone

The political implications of evidence-based approaches (aka start of this week’s wonkwar on the results agenda)

January 22, 2013
The political implications of evidence-based approaches The debate on evidence and results continues to rage. Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche, two of the organiser’s of next April’s Big Push Forward conference on the Politics of  Evidence, kick off a discussion. Tomorrow Chris Whitty, DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser, and Stefan Dercon, its Chief Economist, respond

Lant Pritchett v the Randomistas on the nature of evidence – is a wonkwar brewing?

November 21, 2012

Poor Economics – a rich new book from Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

May 12, 2011

Randomized Controlled Trials: panacea or mirage?

May 7, 2010
Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) are all the rage among development wonks at the moment. Imported from medical research, they offer the tantalizing allure to social scientists of finally overcoming the Achilles’ heel of real-world research – the counterfactual (aka ‘how do we know what would have happened if we hadn’t lobbied the government/ employed the teachers/ built the road etc?).