Experiments in economics and their ethical dimensions
This chapter analyses field experiments in developing countries, including randomized controlled trials (RCT). It argues that these experiments raise many issues, with these being particularly acute in developing countries. The chapter also analyses the rise of experiments in economics, and in this context, the preeminence of RCTs, particularly in development economics and policymaking in developing countries. It describes the epistemological and ethical dimensions of a widespread use of RCTs in developing countries, in particular the ethical challenges for economists that stem from the specificities of these countries due to their poverty and dependence on external policy decisions. Economics, including economic modelling, always had the ambition to be heard by policymakers, and this is even more the case for RCTs. RCTs in economics follow a sequence of steps that is more or less standard. The design of RCTs can be subjected to a variety of questionings, as shown by the vast literature on their ‘internal validity’.