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Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation Revisited

James J. Heckman

NBER Technical Working Paper No. 107
Issued in July 1991, Revised in August 2020
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/t0107

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.

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