Experimental Conversations

Experimental Conversations

Perspectives on Randomized Trials in Development Economics

Edited by Timothy N. Ogden

Discussions of the use and limits of randomized control trials, considering the power of theory, external validity, gaps in knowledge, and what issues matter.





Discussions of the use and limits of randomized control trials, considering the power of theory, external validity, gaps in knowledge, and what issues matter.

The practice of development economics has undergone something of a revolution as many economists have adopted new methods to answer perennial questions about the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. In this book, prominent development economists discuss the use and impact of one of the most significant of these new methods, randomized control trials (RCTs) and field experiments. In extended interviews conducted over a period of several years, they explain their work and their thinking and consider the broader issues of how we learn about the world and how we can change it for the better.

These conversations offer specialists and nonspecialists alike a unique opportunity to hear economists speak in their own words, free of the confines of a particular study or econometric esoterica. The economists describe how they apply research findings in the way they think about the world, revealing their ideas about the power of theory, external validity, gaps in knowledge, and what issues matter. Also included are interviews with RCT observers, critics, sponsors, consumers, and others. Each interview provides a brief biography of the interviewee. Thorough annotations offer background and explanations for key ideas and studies referred to in the conversations.

ContributorsAbhijit Banerjee, Nancy Birdsall, Chris Blattman, Alex Counts, Tyler Cowen, Angus Deaton, Frank DeGiovanni, Esther Duflo, Pascaline Dupas, Xavi Gine, Rachel Glennerster, Judy Gueron, Elie Hassenfeld, Dean Karlan, Michael Kremer, David McKenzie, Jonathan Morduch, Lant Pritchett, Jonathan Robinson, Antoinette Schoar, Dean Yang


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262035101 400 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 b&w illus.


Timothy N. Ogden

Timothy N. Ogden is Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.


  • In his new book Experimental Conversations: Perspectives on Randomized Trials in Development Economics, Tim Ogden has assembled interviews with a distinguished group that interacts with RCTs in every imaginable way.... [T]his collection provides great insight into many of the great minds of those producing and using development economics in our time.

    The World Bank Development Impact Blog


  • If you are getting an advanced degree in economics or another social science (and even if you already have one), drop what you are doing and read this series of interviews with leading thinkers and researchers. There is no better collection of ideas, insights, and personal perspectives on what constitutes good evidence about the world, and the tools we should use to understand more—and hopefully make the world a better place.

    Dennis Whittle

    cofounder of Feedback Labs and GlobalGiving

  • This book, through a series of fascinating conversations with those who were there from the beginning, documents the revolution that has taken place in development economics. Some skeptics notwithstanding, randomized experiments are now a fully accepted and widely used tool in the arsenal of development economists. The conversations here show how this happened, its relation to methodological changes in other fields of economics, and what the thinking was of those who brought about these changes. I highly recommend this book for all development economists, as well as for others interested in methodology in economics in general.

    Guido Imbens

    The Applied Econometrics Professor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University; coauthor of Causal Inference for Statistics, Social, and Biomedical Sciences