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The politics of experimentation: Political competition and randomized controlled trials

Cristina Corduneanu-Huci, Michael T. Dorsch and Paul Maarek

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2021, vol. 49, issue 1, 1-21

Abstract: This paper provides an analysis of how political factors affect the incidence of the evaluation of public policies, with a focus on Randomized Control Trial (RCT) experiments in international development. We argue that political environments where incumbents face greater electoral competition and smaller ruling margins are more likely to host RCT experiments. Using various data sources for the incidence of RCTs both at the cross-country level and at the sub-national level in India, we find that RCTs are more likely to occur in politically competitive jurisdictions. We employ fixed effects regressions using various estimators and an instrumental variable strategy that exploits an electoral reform in India which limited the entry of independent candidates and exogenously affected the degree of electoral competition in state-level politics. The effect seems concentrated on RCTs that have the government as a partner, suggesting that political competition has an important demand-side effect on the incidence of RCTs.

Keywords: Randomized controlled trials; External validity; Political competition; Development policy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2020.09.002

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