NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments

Sylvain Chassang, Gerard Padro i Miquel, Erik Snowberg

NBER Working Paper No. 16343
Issued in September 2010
NBER Program(s):   HE   LS   PR   TWP

We study the design of randomized controlled experiments in environments where outcomes are significantly affected by unobserved effort decisions taken by the subjects(agents). While standard randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are internally consistent, the unobservability of effort provision compromises external validity. We approach trial design as a principal-agent problem and show that natural extensions of RCTs -which we call selective trials- can help improve the external validity of experiments. In particular, selective trials can disentangle the effects of treatment, effort, and the interaction of treatment and effort. Moreover, they can help experimenters identify when measured treatment effects are affected by erroneous beliefs and inappropriate effort provision.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16343

Published: Sylvain Chassang & Gerard Padro I Miquel & Erik Snowberg, 2012. "Selective Trials: A Principal-Agent Approach to Randomized Controlled Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1279-1309, June. citation courtesy of

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