Sunday, May 16, 2010

Randomizing Hits The New Yorker

"The Poverty Lab" in the May 17 New Yorker brings aid effectiveness further to the public discussion. It is a profile of Ester Duflo, who is one of the co-founders of the Poverty Action Lab.

TED presentation on social experiments too. Largely an intro into randomized trials.

I don't think the article's selected metaphor from Angus Deaton is really substantial. It recalls his powerpoint presentation with two people jumping out of an airplane, one with a parachute and one without - Do we need to test the idea that parachutes are useful to people who jump out of planes?

Over simplistic. I like Duflo's response to Deaton's criticism of randomized trials tendency to generalize.

"We are not just evaluating a program and attaching some larger thoughts at the end, but finding ways to use evaluation to explore theories."

By explore theories, I understand this to mean "challenge assumptions", which is really useful, albeit not as prone to silver bullet solutions and sexy campaigns that make rock stars out of economists and vice versa.