Ross Emmett's Reviews > More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty

More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan
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May 23, 11

bookshelves: economics
Read from May 10 to 20, 2011

Medical trial methodology applied to aid programs. Quite interesting, although I don't quite buy the methodology.
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Cliff Landesman Why don't you buy the methodology?


Ross Emmett Cliff: read Daron Acemoglu's article in Journal of Economic Perspectives, summer 2010. The basic argument is that micro-based research programs such as this miss general effects, sometimes to their detriment.


Cliff Landesman Thank you for the reference. I will do that. I subscribe to JEP, fortunately.


Ross Emmett One could also make a micro oriented argument. I was talking about this with Jeff Biddle this morning and he made this argument: in the drug trial context, the results of these experiments are generalizable, at least to a degree. But in order to make the experiments in, say, educational policy truly empirical, so many limits have to be placed on the experiments that it ends up not being able to be generalized beyond the specific context of the test. Put differently, by the time they have got the experiment set up so that they can show a high degree of statistical significance, they have reduced the generalizability so much that they have a result that is economically insignificant.


Cliff Landesman I think you may have in mind not the paper by Acemoglu, but the one by Angus Deaton, "Understanding the Mechanisms of Economic Development". It seems more relevant to More Than Good Intentions. The Acemoglu paper is about general equilibrium and development.


Ross Emmett Oh well. Acemoglu discusses Duflo's work, which is what Dean Kaplan does as well.


Cliff Landesman Jeff Biddle makes an interesting point. However, the experimental results may generalize enough to justify pursuing some programs, rather than others, at least provisionally.


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