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Many in the development community lament that we have failed on two counts: broad audiences don’t know about unprecedented progress in poverty reduction and human development indicators in recent decades, and, if they do know, they don’t see the connection between aid programs and such progress. Despite strongs efforts on the part of development institutions to measure results, it remains hard to articulate them in a way that is compelling to nontechnical audiences—taxpayers who absolutely deserve to understand why and how development dollars are making a difference.
One of the questions reportedly from the Presidential transition team to the State Department was: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” During the nomination hearings for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Senator Rand Paul provided one answer: seventy percent of aid is “stolen off the top.” The question is a fair one to ask. The bad news is that the short answer is “we don’t know.” The better news is that the slightly longer answer is “nowhere near 70 percent.” And the best news is that if we spent more time tracking the results of aid projects, we’d have a much better idea of where corruption was a problem and if our efforts to reduce it were working.
“3ie has made my job much easier.” This is what we heard last month from a high-ranking government official in Africa, referring to the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and it made us very proud. Creating 3ie was the outcome of the Evaluation Gap Working Group that we led along with Nancy Birdsall to address the limited number of rigorous impact evaluation of public policies in developing countries. As CGD celebrates its 15th year, it is worth considering what made that working group so successful, the obstacles we confronted, and the work that still remains to be done.
The unfolding of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” about the use of randomized control trials (RCTs) as a tool in improving development policies and practices has reached the “synthesis” stage. A new paper in the 3ie working paper series “Evaluations with Impact” by Shah, Wang, Fraker and Gastfriend (hereafter IDinsight team and, full disclosure, three of which were students of mine) (2015) does an excellent job both in laying out the debate and in articulating a newly emerging conv
It was a big deal when various media outlets declared last week that the evidence to support mass deworming had been “debunked.” The debate now is not about whether children sick with worms should get treated (everyone says yes), but whether the mass treatment of all kids — including those not known to be infected — is a cost-effective way to raise school attendance. The healthiest parts of the debate have been about the need for transparency, data sharing, and more replication in science. Here, we’re going to focus here on the narrower question of the evidence for mass deworming specifically, which is where some journalists have gotten things quite wrong.
I never cease to be astonished by the amount of energy people put into claiming that Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) are the be-all and end-all of impact evaluation methods; nor at the energy people put into claiming that RCTs are marginal, costly, and a waste of time.
Proponents of the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in impact evaluation and development research often point out the close link between these trials and their clinical counterparts in the world of medical research.