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Experimentation at Scale

Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus

NBER Working Paper No. 23957
Issued in October 2017
NBER Program(s):The Development Economics Program, The Education Program, The Labor Studies Program, The Public Economics Program

This paper makes the case for greater use of randomized experiments “at scale.” We review various critiques of experimental program evaluation in developing countries, and discuss how experimenting at scale along three specific dimensions – the size of the sampling frame, the number of units treated, and the size of the unit of randomization – can help alleviate them. We find that program evaluation randomized controlled trials published in top journals over the last 15 years have typically been “small” in these senses, but also identify a number of examples – including from our own work – demonstrating that experimentation at much larger scales is both feasible and valuable.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23957

Published: Karthik Muralidharan & Paul Niehaus, 2017. "Experimentation at Scale," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol 31(4), pages 103-124. citation courtesy of

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