Friday, April 23, 2010

The 2010 John Bates Clark Award

The winner this year is Esther Duflo, of MIT. Her award is based on her work on randomized control trials. From her bio:

Duflo has been a leader in using randomized field experiments to address important questions concerning public policy in developing countries. In one series of papers, she and various coauthors study the impact of female political leadership on local government spending and attitudes toward women by examining a policy that required one-third of India’s villages, selected at random in each election cycle, to choose a woman as council head. She finds, for example, that villages forced to choose female council heads shift local government spending away from education and towards drinking water and (in some areas) roads. Another series of papers measures the effects of various randomized educational interventions, such as the introduction of teacher aids (local women with some secondary education but no formal teacher training), a computer-assisted math program, reductions in pupil-teacher ratios, ability grouping, various forms of monitoring and incentives to reduce teacher absenteeism, and programs designed to encourage community participation. For example, in work with Abhijit Banerjee, Rukmini Banerji, Rachel Glennerster, and Stuti Khemani, she investigates the effects of three randomly assigned programs targeting community participation. The first informed villagers about opportunities to participate in school governance and monitoring committees, the second trained villagers to use a testing tool, and the third organized literate villagers to hold remedial reading classes for illiterate children. The study concludes that the interventions had no impact on community involvement in the schools, no impact on teacher effort, and no impact on students' achievement in school.

In work with Emmanuel Saez, Duflo has also used field experiments to study issues concerning U.S. pension policy. One article reports the results of a study in which a random sample of employees in some departments of a major university were provided with monetary incentives to attend a benefits fair. The incentives increased attendance of both the targeted employees and employees in the same departments who were not targeted, and significantly raised enrollment in tax deferred accounts for both groups. Thus, the effects of the intervention appear to have been ransmitted through social channels.

Her website is here and her papers are here.

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