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The Open Secret of Development Economics

To many in China, this year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences seems to have shone a spotlight on one area of development economics at the expense of another. While randomized controlled trials might be useful for creating or improving welfare programs, they can't tell poor countries how to achieve and sustain rapid growth.

BEIJING – This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences recognizes Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer for their work using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in developmental studies. This year’s selection has elicited a broad array of reactions from around the world, not least because RCTs are a source of controversy among academic economists. To many in China, the Nobel Committee seems once again to have missed the Chinese development experience, which, after all, had nothing to do with RCTs.