Free online JPAL lectures about conducting randomized field trials

Real experiments have set a new standard for establishing causality in development economics.  In an evaluation process that looks very similar to clinical trials in medicine, social policies in a randomly assigned "treatment group" are evaluated against outcomes for other individuals in a "control group." The argument for this kind of work is that (1) the effect of social policies must be measured carefully if we want to understand whether they are worth implementing at a national level and (2) historical analysis of policies is often insufficient because there is no "control group" against which outcomes can be compared.  For a good example of this kind of research, read this Tech Review article on Ben Olken's work on democracy in Indonesia.

Not all modern work in development is of this type since not all interventions or questions are suitable for the method (eg. my own work studying the impact of hurricanes on development cannot be), but there is a trend toward relying on it more and more. 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) {co-founded by Ester Duflo, the subject of an earlier post by Jesse} is a group of researchers that do randomized field trials of various policy interventions for poor communities. While many people do this kind of work, the folks at the (JPAL) have honed the method and mastered the logistics (which are tremendously complex).  There is course taught by several people at JPAL for executives about how to conduct a randomized trial (and why) which has been recorded and is free online.  To access it:
  1. open up iTunes (which you can download for free here
  2. go to the iTunes Store (there is a tab on the left for it)
  3. search "poverty action lab executive training
All the lectures should show up and are free to download.

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