I wrote an essay for the World Development Symposium on Development and Poverty Alleviation. Here is the abstract:
This article situates the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in the history of thought on development, tracing how the focus, theory and methods have shifted in the field. The article evaluates theoretical and methodological critiques of the way randomized control trials (RCTs) are employed by the laureates, as well as attempts to overcome these challenges. In terms of theory, the article demonstrates what gets lost when experiments are guided by methodological individualism and assumptions of individual utility-maximizing behavior. In terms of methodology, the article unpacks the limits of RCTs related to their causal model, and their lack of attention to human agency and wider socio-economic context. Finally, the article discusses the experimental approach’s relevance for research and policy-making and cautions against any approach becoming a “gold standard,” due to the importance of pluralism for maintaining an open debate about development.