RCT: The Gold Standard for Poverty Eradication?

6 nov 2019 10:00 6 nov 2019 11:30 ENG

Howard White (Campbell), Sarah A Tobin (CMI), Georg Picot (UiB) and Espen Villanger (CMI) on Randomised Control Trials.

The Nobel Prize in economic sciences 2019 was awarded to Michael Kremer, Abhijit Banerjee, and Esther Duflo “for their experimental approach to alleviate global poverty.” Inspired by medical research, they have carried out a huge number of randomised control trials (RCTs), a method often described as a “gold standard” in research.

But is all that glitters gold? Using RCTs in the fight against poverty has been subject to harsh criticism. In July 2018 fifteen leading economists published a piece in the Guardian, arguing that RCTs do not address the root-causes of poverty. The method is criticised for being unethical, for producing results with weak external validity, being too expensive, poor on contextualisation, unable to deal with complex interventions, etc.

Is the criticism valid? In this seminar, we will distinguish chalk from cheese. When is it appropriate to apply RCTs, and when is it not? How can other methods be combined with RCTs to strengthen our knowledge on the impact of development interventions? Maybe we need to get out of our academic trenches?

Howard White, economist, is the Chief Executive Officer of Campbell. He was the founding Executive Director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and has led the impact evaluation program of the World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group. White believes in academic rigour as the basis for policy and practice.

Sarah A Tobin, anthropologist, senior researcher at CMI, focusing on Islam, economic anthropology, and displacement/migration in the Middle East and East Africa. She is also involved in documenting the impact of Results-Based Financing in Tanzania.

Georg Picot, professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen. His research is in the fields of comparative welfare state research and comparative political economy. Picot’s research interests include labour market policy, low-wage employment, immigration, globalisation, and political parties.

Espen Villanger, Research director at CMI, will moderate this session.