“In Place of a Sweeping Conclusion”

Do free bed nets in some countries lead to more cases of malaria? Could anti-parasite pills raise school attendance in one country and have no effect in another? How cheap does preventative care have to be for low-income families to see the doctor?

Can we answer these grand, universal questions and draw overwhelming conclusions about poverty? In their newest book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee recommend a data-driven approach to search for more rigorous results, more specific and direct solutions that are cost-effective and actually work.

Duflo is widely recognized as the world's leading advocate of randomized controlled trials in development economics. As a methodology, RCTs have been used for over a half-century in clinical medicine, where the effect of a drug or medical procedure is confirmed or denied in scientific experiments involving control and treatment groups. The use of RCTs to address global poverty is a phenomenon of the last decade, but it has caught on with the force of a paradigm shift in economics, public policy, and other disciplines.

Read more about it in Kentaro Toyama’s interview

Aug 022012
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