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Social experiments in labour and social policies: A thriving research field

Marc Gurgand and Michael Rosholm ()

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Abstract: Over the years, randomized control trials (RCTs) have become a standard methodology in empirical economics, as part of the "credibility revolution" (Angrist and Pischke, 2010). It is well known that the method started in the social sciences (experimental psychology and education) in the late 19th – early 20th century, before emerging progressively in medical science in the 1950s (Marks, 1997). A first wave of RCTs in social policy were implemented in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, at a time of progressive, then conservative, policy reforms. Amid strong resistance (related by Judith Gueron and Howard Rolston (Gueron and Rolston, 2003) in their account of the early years of the MDRC), experiments progressively appeared as a way to transfer authority from political argument to methods, and clarify (but not resolve) heated political debates. An important step was then taken in the 1990s with a rapid surge in experiments in developing countries, a movement strongly connected to the foundation of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT by Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Sendhil Mullainathan in 2003. The Lab has sponsored a wide network of researchers running a growing number of RCTs around the world; it also engaged significant resources at disseminating research results and building partnership with policy makers.

Date: 2017-04
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Published in Labour Economics, Elsevier, 2017, 45, pp.1-4. 〈10.1016/j.labeco.2017.03.005〉

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DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2017.03.005

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