NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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A Theory of Experimenters

Abhijit Banerjee, Sylvain Chassang, Sergio Montero, Erik Snowberg

NBER Working Paper No. 23867
Issued in September 2017
NBER Program(s):The Development Economics Program, The Education Program, The Health Care Program, The Health Economics Program, The Labor Studies Program, The Public Economics Program, The Political Economy Program

This paper proposes a decision-theoretic framework for experiment design. We model experimenters as ambiguity-averse decision-makers, who make trade-offs between subjective expected performance and robustness. This framework accounts for experimenters' preference for randomization, and clarifies the circumstances in which randomization is optimal: when the available sample size is large enough or robustness is an important concern. We illustrate the practical value of such a framework by studying the issue of rerandomization. Rerandomization creates a trade-off between subjective performance and robustness. However, robustness loss grows very slowly with the number of times one randomizes. This argues for rerandomizing in most environments.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23867

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