Jul 25, 2012

Experimental Political Science

The rise of experiments as one of the most prominent empirical strategies has led to new advances in the study of democracy and development. So far, some experimental results have confirmed previous arguments, such as the effectiveness of clientelism as a mobilization strategy and the prevalence of political and social inequalities despite institutional innovations. Other experiments have revealed relationships that only a randomized control trial could uncover, like the fact that clientelist appeals reinforce ethnic voting and not the other way around. Finally, some experiments are revolutionizing the measurement of core concepts in the field. For example, we now know that vote buying measured experimentally is more prevalent than what observational studies suggested. 
Going forward, field experiments in collaboration with policymakers, governments, and NGOs are a promising line of research. The next round of experiments, however, faces considerable challenges, including those we have highlighted throughout this chapter. First, researchers must find creative ways to design interventions that are attractive to potential partners but that still speak convincingly to theoretically relevant questions. In doing so, researchers must pay special attention to internal validity issues. Second, a more analytical approach would help guide researchers to design experiments that enable significant accumulation of knowledge to take place. Finally, as the scope of25experimentation expands, the tradeoff between external validity and ethical concerns will become more salient.Despite these challenges, experimental research on development and democracy is a productive and exciting endeavor. As insightful as the experimental research has been up until now, numerous substantive questions remain unanswered. Hopefully the selection of studies covered in this chapter illustrate how experiments can be used as a research tool to study broader and more central questions about the relationship between democracy and development.
That is from the paper by De La O and  Wantchekon. It is here

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