Title

Randomized control trial as social observatory: A case study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

3-1-2020

Journal

World Development

Volume

127

DOI

10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104787

Keywords

Busia, Kenya; Case study; Deworming; Longitudinal research; RCT; Spillovers

Abstract

© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Critics of randomized control trials (RCTs) in development economics argue that this methodology lends itself to ‘smaller’ questions with limited relevance to policy or economics. Using the seminal work of Miguel and Kremer (2004) on a school-based deworming intervention in Kenya as a case study, we argue that RCTs can spearhead policy change, serve as a laboratory to test economic theories and develop cutting-edge empirical methods, or do both. This does not happen in a vacuum, but through thoughtful design embedded in a broader research and policy agenda. Here, we describe a family of studies built on Miguel and Kremer (2004), shedding light on factors that supported the generation of evidence and insights far beyond the near-term RCT result. As in any piece of social sciences research, this descriptive evidence may not be externally valid in all settings. We nevertheless hope the lessons it offers will inspire others to examine these possibilities in their own research.

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