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Our former postdoc Chris Blattman has terrific advice for aspiring graduate students wondering if they should get into the business (via a Ph.D) of impact evaluation via randomized controlled trials (RCTs) -- RCTs have apparently become all the rage. For development aficionados an RCT-based Ph.D. has many benefits: field work in exotic settings, a rationale for doing applied empirical work while also being visibly rigorous and scientific (!) and apparently, a straightforward path to a journal publication. But as Chris puts it perfectly "uncovering the causes of effects excites me less than understanding the effects of causes."
For the thoughtful why and how of impact evaluation, including and beyond RCTs, see what Ruth Levine and her task force had to say on the evaluation gap and look for the luncheon speech Angus Deaton gave at a Brookings conference Bill Easterly organized last May.
CGD blog posts reflect theviews of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.