CFDP 2127R

Experiment-as-Market: Incorporating Welfare into Randomized Controlled Trials


Publication Date: April 2018

Revision Date: May 2019

Pages: 98

Abstract: Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) enroll hundreds of millions of subjects and involve many human lives. To improve subjects’ welfare, I propose a design of RCTs that I call Experiment-as-Market (EXAM). EXAM produces a Pareto efficient allocation of treatment assignment probabilities, is asymptotically incentive compatible for preference elicitation, and unbiasedly estimates any causal effect estimable with standard RCTs. I quantify these properties by applying EXAM to a water cleaning experiment in Kenya (Kremer et al., 2011). In this empirical setting, compared to standard RCTs, EXAM substantially improves subjects’ predicted well-being while reaching similar treatment effect estimates with similar precision.

Keywords: Clinical Trial, Social Experiment, A/B Test, Market Design, Competitive Equilibrium from Equal Income, Pareto Efficiency, Causal Inference, Development Economics