CFDP 2056R

(Non)Randomization: A Theory of Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of School Quality


Publication Date: December 2016

Revision Date: August 2017

Pages: 66


Many centralized school admissions systems use lotteries to ration limited seats at oversubscribed schools. The resulting random assignment is used by empirical researchers to identify the effect of entering a school on outcomes like test scores. I first find that the two most popular empirical research designs may not successfully extract a random assignment of applicants to schools. When do the research designs overcome this problem? I show the following main results for a class of data-generating mechanisms containing those used in practice: One research design extracts a random assignment under a mechanism if and practically only if the mechanism is strategy-proof for schools. In contrast, the other research design does not necessarily extract a random assignment under any mechanism.


Matching Market Design, Natural Experiment, Program Evaluation, Random Assignment, Quasi-Experimental Research Design, School Effectiveness