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An article of faith among development economists is that “evidence-based policy” holds the promise of faster progress. Barbara Bruns set out to find a rigorously evaluated pilot whose evidence had led to a program at scale. It wasn’t easy.
Last summer, the Liberian government delegated management of 93 public elementary schools to eight different private contractors. Given the intense controversy around the program, the government—with some encouragement from our colleagues at Ark Education Partnership Group, who helped manage the program—agreed to randomize the allocation of schools during the pilot, and the three of us partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to evaluate its impacts.
We respond to critics of our evaluation of Liberia’s “partnership” school program, distinguishing legitimate concerns about the charter-style program itself—which can be turned into testable hypotheses—from methodological limitations to what an impact evaluation can show.
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.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been used to demonstrate the effectiveness of development interventions from cash transfers to tutoring. They are one of many tools used to evaluate policies, products, and services around the world.