Randomistas Seek to Dispel Guesswork in Anti-Poverty Efforts

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Interesting article in the WSJ today on the use of random assignment studies in anti-poverty efforts. Known as “Randomistas” these economists show a lot of promising results. At one point in the article Columbia’s Jeffery Sachs attempts to pour cold water on the process:

Prof. Sachs says that “many, almost surely most, of the cutting-edge breakthroughs in actual development in recent years did not result from [randomized controlled trials].” He believes that tackling problems at the level of communities or entire societies, rather than just households, is likely to be more effective—though, he adds, randomized controlled trials should be “a part of a diverse arsenal of analytical and policy tools.”

Retorts Prof. Duflo of MIT: “The big difference between Jeffrey Sachs and us is that he knows what needs to be done, and we don’t. We’re trying to learn it.”

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