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ERIC Number: ED541837
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Mar
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 12
Rigorous Program Evaluations on a Budget: How Low-Cost Randomized Controlled Trials Are Possible in Many Areas of Social Policy
Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy
The increasing ability of social policy researchers to conduct randomized controlled trials (RCTs) at low cost could revolutionize the field of performance-based government. RCTs are widely judged to be the most credible method of evaluating whether a social program is effective, overcoming the demonstrated inability of other, more common methods to produce definitive evidence. In recent years, researchers have shown it is often possible to conduct high-quality RCTs at low cost, addressing a key obstacle to their widespread use. Costs are reduced by measuring study outcomes with administrative data already collected for other purposes (e.g., student test scores, criminal arrests, health care expenditures). These developments make it possible now, more than ever before, for policy officials to use scientific evidence about "what works" to increase government effectiveness. The purpose of this document is to illustrate the feasibility and value of low-cost RCTs for policy officials and researchers, by providing concrete examples from diverse program areas. This paper summarizes five well-conducted, low-cost RCTs, carried out in real-world community settings. Study costs range from $50,000 to $300,000, with random assignment itself comprising only a small portion of this cost (between $0 and $20,000). The studies all produced valid evidence that is of policy and practical importance. Individual sections contain footnotes.
Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. 900 19th Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-380-3571; Fax: 202-380-3624; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; William T. Grant Foundation
Authoring Institution: Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy
Identifiers - Location: Hawaii; New York