DP13443 Using RCTs to Estimate Long-Run Impacts in Development Economics

Author(s): Adrien Bougen, Yue Huang, Michael Kremer, Edward Miguel
Publication Date: January 2019
Date Revised: January 2019
Keyword(s): cash transfers, child health, development economics, long-run impacts, panel (longitudinal) data, randomized controlled trials
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13443

We assess evidence from randomized control trials (RCTs) on long-run economic productivity and living standards in poor countries. We first document that several studies estimate large positive long-run impacts, but that relatively few existing RCTs have been evaluated over the long-run. We next present evidence from a systematic survey of existing RCTs, with a focus on cash transfer and child health programs, and show that a meaningful subset can realistically be evaluated for long-run effects. We discuss ways to bridge the gap between the burgeoning number of development RCTs and the limited number that have been followed up to date, including through new panel (longitudinal) data, improved participant tracking methods, alternative research designs, and access to administrative, remote sensing, and cell phone data. We conclude that the rise of development economics RCTs since roughly 2000 provides a novel opportunity to generate high-quality evidence on the long-run drivers of living standards.