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Unit information: Policy Experiments in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Policy Experiments
Unit code EFIMM0037
Credit points 15
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Burgess
Open unit status Not open

ECONM1010 Microeconomics;

ECONM1022 Econometrics



School/department School of Economics
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will provide an introduction to the increasingly important area of using field experiments to evaluate policy and to test economic theory.

The unit will review the benefits and potential limitations of using field experiments (compared to other evaluation tools used by economists).

It will introduce students to key issues in the design and implementation of field experiments to evaluate policy and to test economic theory (for example, different ways of randomizing, determining appropriate sample sizes).

Students will see many practical examples of field experiments in different fields (for example, Labour Economics, Development Economics, Education).

Students will also be asked to design (in outline form) their own field study in order to think through issues from first-hand perspective.

The unit will consider field experiments in developing and developed country contexts.

Intended learning outcomes

1. Students will understand the benefits – and some limitations of – evaluating policy with field experiments

2. They will understand key elements in the practical design and implementation of field experiments designed to evaluate policy and test economic theory.

3. They will be able to apply key concepts to a practical policy setting

Teaching details

Lectures will introduce key material and cover important empirical papers while classes will cover exercises (designed to test understanding of the material) as well as student presentations.

  • 10 hours lectures
  • 14 hours classes
  • 60 hours preparation of essay
  • 1.5 hour final exam
  • 64 hours individual study

Assessment Details

Summative assessment:

(a) One and a half hour written exam (worth 50% of the marks). The exam will test ILOs 1 and 2.

(b) Project report (worth 50% of the marks). Students will be expected to write a practically-oriented paper (e.g. an outline for a policy field experiment) with a 2000 words maximum. This will test ILOs 2 and 3.

Formative assessment:

Students will engage in class discussion and be required to present relevant papers in class. Tests ILOs 1, 2 and 3.

Reading and References

List, J. and Rasul, I. (2014) “Field experiments in Labour Economics” NBER Working Paper no. 16062

Duflo, E., Glennerster, R. and Kremer, M. (2006) “Using Randomization in Development Economics Research: A Toolkit. NBER Technical Working Paper 333.

List, J., Sadoff, S. and Wagner, M. (2010) “So you want to run an experiment, now what? Some Simple Rules of Thumb for Optimal Experimental Design”. NBER Working Paper no. 15701