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RCTs for better policy? The case of public systems in developing countries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
JournalEconomia Politica
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2016
Accepted/In press3 Mar 2016
E-pub ahead of print19 Mar 2016
PublishedApr 2016


King's Authors


This paper considers the application of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to improve public systems in developing countries. Arguing that existing critiques of RCTs as to problems with extrapolation and narrowness of scope are especially relevant in this context, I consider the claim that these shortcomings can be ameliorated through better causal explanations. I analyse how theoretical mathematical models are used to construct causal explanations, and argue that it is still difficult to extrapolate or address the subjectivity inherent in the choice of interventions. I illustrate these arguments using two prominent RCTs that have trialled interventions to improve government schools in India.

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