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(Don’t) Leave Politics Out of It: Reflections on Public Policies, Experiments, and Interventions

  • Economics Discussion Papers
  • December 3, 2019
  • Sabyasachi Das,
  • Sabyasachi Das

The use of Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) in policy evaluations has revolutionized our approach to designing effective public policies. This essay argues that understanding the politics of policymaking is integral to the discussion of RCTs. The literature on RCTs has not sufficiently engaged with this issue. Examining a recent set of papers, the essay analyzes how the political process of policymaking as well as its political consequences may matter for the overall welfare implications of an intervention, including those involving the experimental method. Additionally, such political concerns with the method may be hard to avoid as both small and large scale RCTs may involve unintended and yet, consequential, political effects. Given the influence that RCTs enjoy within the discipline and in the wider development community, bringing the political economy considerations within the ambit of analyses could make policy evaluations more holistic, better our understanding, and consequently, bring research closer to practice.

Study at Ashoka

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