François Roubaud and Isabelle Guérin on COVID-19 and the role of RCTs in development

WIDER Webinar Series

François Roubaud and Isabelle Guérin on COVID-19 and the role of RCTs in development

François Roubaud and Isabelle Guérin joined the WIDER Webinar Series on 10 November 2020. During this special 75 minute session they will launch their new book on the role of randomized control trials (RCT) in development.

COVID-19 and the role of RCTs in development

In October 2019, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer jointly won the 51st Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.” But what is the exact scope of their experimental method, known as randomized control trials (RCTs)? Which sorts of questions are RCTs able to address and which do they fail to answer? The edited volume Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development: A Critical Perspective, just published, provides answers to these questions. The book explains how RCTs work, what they can achieve, why they sometimes fail, how they can be improved and why other methods are both useful and necessary.

The book includes contributions from specialists with a range of backgrounds and disciplines, including two other winners of the Nobel Economics Prize.

In short, and even though the book gives voice to contrasting opinions, it shows that the potential of RCTs is much more limited than imagined, generates various perverse effects, and raises fundamental ethical questions. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to test these conclusions, and question the use but also the limitations of the method.

Gulzar Natarajan and Rachel M. Gisselquist will join the session as discussants. Rachel Gisselquist will be sharing insights from a recent Journal Article on the potential of trials in measuring government performance.

UNU-WIDER director Kunal Sen will chair the event.

Join the webinar to learn more about the possibilities and challenges of RCTs: Registration link 

About the speakers

Dr François Roubaud, co-editor of the book, is an economist and statistician, a Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute of Research for Sustainable Development (IRD), a member of the DIAL research unit in Paris and former head (2000-2004). He holds a PhD in Economics from the Paris-Ouest Nanterre University and is a graduate of the Paris Graduate School of Economics, Statistics and Finance (ENSAE). In statistics, he initiated the mixed surveys approach (household-enterprise) to measure the informal economy, in particular the 1-2-3 survey, and developed the governance modules grafted on official household surveys now used to monitor SDG16. Both are recognized as international standards and implemented in dozens of LDCs (in Africa, Latin America and Asia). In development economics, his main fields of expertise are labour market and informal economy, corruption, governance and institutions, and impact evaluation and political economic of development policies.

Dr Isabelle Guérin, co-editor of the book, is a socioeconomist and Senior Research Fellow at the French Institute of Research for Sustainable Development (IRD). She specializes in the role of debt and credit in the dynamics of poverty and inequality. Her current work focuses on the financialization of domestic economies, looking at how financialization produces new forms of inequalities and domination (debt bondage, over-indebtedness), but also alternative and solidarity-based initiatives. Her work draws most often from her own field-based original data, combines ethnography and statistical analyses and is interdisciplinary and comparative in nature. Her work also includes a permanent thinking about the conditions of data production and the combination of methods.

MSc Gulzar Natarajan, author of the book, is an officer of the Indian Administrative Service. Over a twenty years career, he has served in the office of the Prime Minister of India, managed the Infrastructure Corporation of the Andhra Pradesh state, been District Collector of Hyderabad, Chairman and Managing Director of a power distribution company based at Visakhapatnam, Municipal Commissioner of Vijayawada, and in development field postings across Andhra Pradesh. He has also led the design and implementation of large-scale projects in infrastructure, urban, health, education, skills and livelihoods, poverty reduction etc. across various levels of the government. He holds a bachelor’s Engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and a master’s degree in International Development (MPA-ID) from Harvard Kennedy School.