Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kristof on randomized trials, and economics

Nicholas Kristof's NY Times column today, Getting Smart on Aid, is a paean to randomized trials experiments, and the work of Michael Kremer, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Dean Karlan and others.

It also includes this thought on economics generally:

"When I was in college, I majored in political science. But if I were going through college today, I’d major in economics. It possesses a rigor that other fields in the social sciences don’t — and often greater relevance as well. That’s why economists are shaping national debates about everything from health care to poverty, while political scientists often seem increasingly theoretical and irrelevant.

"Economists are successful imperialists of other disciplines because they have better tools. Educators know far more about schools, but economists have used rigorous statistical methods to answer basic questions: Does having a graduate degree make one a better teacher? (Probably not.) Is money better spent on smaller classes or on better teachers? (Probably better teachers.)"

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