EXPERIMENTAL CONVERSATIONS

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The practice of development economics has undergone something of a revolution as many economists have adopted new methods to answer perennial questions about the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. In this book, prominent development economists discuss the use and impact of one of the most significant of these new methods, randomized control trials (RCTs) and field experiments. In extended interviews conducted over a period of several years, they explain their work and their thinking and consider the broader issues of how we learn about the world and how we can change it for the better.

These conversations offer specialists and nonspecialists alike a unique opportunity to hear economists speak in their own words, free of the confines of a particular study or econometric esoterica. The economists describe how they apply research findings in the way they think about the world, revealing their ideas about the power of theory, external validity, gaps in knowledge, and what issues matter. Also included are interviews with RCT observers, critics, sponsors, consumers, and others. Each interview provides a brief biography of the interviewee. Thorough annotations offer background and explanations for key ideas and studies referred to in the conversations.

About Timothy N. Ogden

Experimental Conversations: Perspectives on Randomized Trials in Development Economics is the first book in what will be a series of books of conversations with leading economists addressing some of the pressing issues facing the world today. My aim is to better understand, to think clearer, truer thoughts about the world and how it might be changed for the better. Currently taking place: data conversations.


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Published by The MIT Press

Published by The MIT Press

Overview

The practice of development economics has undergone something of a revolution as many economists have adopted new methods to answer perennial questions about the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. In this book, prominent development economists discuss the use and impact of one of the most significant of these new methods, randomized control trials (RCTs) and field experiments. In extended interviews conducted over a period of several years, they explain their work and their thinking and consider the broader issues of how we learn about the world and how we can change it for the better.

These conversations offer specialists and nonspecialists alike a unique opportunity to hear economists speak in their own words, free of the confines of a particular study or econometric esoterica. The economists describe how they apply research findings in the way they think about the world, revealing their ideas about the power of theory, external validity, gaps in knowledge, and what issues matter. Also included are interviews with RCT observers, critics, sponsors, consumers, and others. Each interview provides a brief biography of the interviewee. Thorough annotations offer background and explanations for key ideas and studies referred to in the conversations.


Reviews

Tyler Cowen, economist:
"I very much recommend the book... Interviews are so often so much better than just letting everyone be a blowhard, and Ogden did a great job." Read more...

David Evans, World Bank:
"[T]his collection provides great insight into many of the great minds of those producing and using development economics in our time. I highly recommend it." Read more...

Marc Gunther, journalist:
"The book sounds geeky and it is, but if you care about evidence and global poverty, it’s well worth the effort." Read more...

 


Endorsements

"If you are getting an advanced degree in economics or another social science (and even if you already have one), drop what you are doing and read this series of interviews with leading thinkers and researchers. There is no better collection of ideas, insights, and personal perspectives on what constitutes good evidence about the world, and the tools we should use to understand more—and hopefully make the world a better place.”
Dennis Whittle, cofounder of Feedback Labs and GlobalGiving

 

“This book, through a series of fascinating conversations with those who were there from the beginning, documents the revolution that has taken place in development economics. Some skeptics notwithstanding, randomized experiments are now a fully accepted and widely used tool in the arsenal of development economists. The conversations here show how this happened, its relation to methodological changes in other fields of economics, and what the thinking was of those who brought about these changes. I highly recommend this book for all development economists, as well as for others interested in methodology in economics in general.”
Guido Imbens, The Applied Econometrics Professor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University; coauthor of Causal Inference for Statistics, Social, and Biomedical Sciences