Is there rigorous evidence that anyone will use rigorous evidence?

26 Mar

A new study using 1,419 micro-finance NGOs as subjects created two treatment groups.

In the positive treatment subjects were randomly assigned to receive a summary of a study by prominent authors finding that microcredit is effective. The negative treatment provided information on research – by the same authors using a very similar design – reporting the ineffectiveness of microcredit. We compare both conditions to a control in which no studies were cited.

The results:

The positive treatment elicited twice as many responses as the negative treatment – and significantly more acceptances of our invitation to consider partnering on an evaluation of their program.

The authors point out that the Randomized Evaluation revolution has a missing step:

the willingness of organizations to update based on scientific information has been assumed and not established.

Or as Lant Pritchett suggested in a paper a decade ago: “It Pays to Be Ignorant

UPDATE: see Chris Blattman take on the same paper today here.