Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation Revisited
This paper considers the evidence on the effectiveness and limitations of randomized controlled trials in economics. I revisit my previous paper "Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation" and update its message. I present a brief history of randomization in economics and identify two waves of enthusiasm for the method as "Two Awakenings" because of the near-religious zeal associated with both waves. I briefly summarize the lessons of the first wave and forecast the same lessons will be learned in the second wave.
I would like to thank Rafeh Qureshi for comments made on this draft. This research was supported in part by: NIH grants NICHD R37HD065072 and NICHD R01HD054702; and the American Bar Foundation. The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the funders nor the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
A version of this paper is forthcoming in Florent Bédécarrats, Isabelle Guérin and François Roubaud (Eds.), Randomized controlled trials in the field of development: a critical perspective, Oxford University Press.