Randomized control trials

What are they, why are they promoted as the gold standard for causal identification and what can they (not) tell us?

Authored by: David Fuente , Dale Whittington

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259

10.4324/9780203097571.ch31

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Abstract

Over the past decade scholars, research practitioners, and donors have shown an increasing interest in using randomized control trials (RCTs) to evaluate the effectiveness of a wide range of social and infrastructure programs in developing countries. Much as in medicine where randomized control trials are standard practice, the policy community has turned to RCTs in response to increasing calls for evidence-based policy. As a result, quasi-experimental approaches to program evaluation have come under increasing scrutiny and been strongly criticized by advocates of RCTs. In fact, in some policy and scholarly circles the term RCT has become nearly synonymous with “rigorous” and has been hailed as the primary, if not sole, arbiter of “hard” evidence in the policy process.

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