Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Than Good Intentions

Dean Karlan has written some of the most highly-cited papers in the literature on randomised evaluation of development projects. His IDEAS page is here Along with his co-author Jacob Appel, he has written a book outlining the importance of rigorous design and evaluation of development projects. The website for the book is The book is an accesible and readable account of an extremely interesting literature applying randomised controlled trials in the context of development. Karlan has been particularly involved in behavioural trials that use both monetary incentives and various forms of reframing and commitment devices to influence behaviour. The book's strength is that it offers a very concise summary of a wide range of these types of trials in areas as diverse as promoting teacher attendance to encouraging efficient fertiliser use to sexual health interventions. Anyone working in the aid field should certainly read this book but I think it is also has a more general readership in terms of anyone involved in the design and evaluation of policies in any area, whether from the donor side, the evaluation side or the implementation side. We have covered the ongoing debate about the use of IV and RCT designs in development studies and it is worth keeping the wider debate in mind when reading this book but, overall, it provides a great summary of one of the most active areas of modern economics.

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