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NYU DRI Talk – Lant Pritchett, “The Debate about RCTs in Development is over. We won. They lost.”

  • NYU Development Research Institute (DRI) 14A Washington Mews New York, NY, 10003 United States (map)

On February 21, 2018, NYU Development Research Institute and Africa House presented a lecture by Harvard Professor Lant Pritchett. Professor Pritchett shared his latest views on Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) and the debate surrounding their increased use in development practice. Following the lecture, audience members had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss the topic with Professor Pritchett.


There has been a debate in development economics over the last 20 years as some claimed the use of RCTs as a tool for independent impact evaluation would significantly improve development practice and hence development.  While right about the methodological claims about the superiority of randomization to produce cleaner estimates of the LATE (local average treatment effect) of projects and programs, this, in and of itself, does not change development practice.  All of the five claims needed to sustain a positive model in which RCT/IIE has a major positive impact are demonstrably false. The proponents of RCTs have responded to losing the first round decisively by changing significantly both their claims and their practice.

Speaker Bio:

Lant Pritchett is a Professor of the Practice of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School.  He will be moving in 2018 to Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government where he is working on a large research project on how to improve systems of basic education in developing countries. Read more here.

Download Presentation Slides Here

Photo Credit: ©Goldman: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau