One problem was that no one was actually testing global aid programs — methodically — to see if they really changed people’s lives permanently. „They haven’t been taking the scientific method to problems of poverty,” he says.
Take for instance, a charity that gives a family a cow. The charity might check on the family a year later and say, „Wow! The family is doing so much better with this cow. Cows must, be the reason why.”
But maybe it wasn’t the cow that improved their lives. Maybe the family had a bumper crop that year, or property values went up in the neighborhood. Researchers really weren’t doing those experiments, Karlan says.
So he and a bunch of his colleagues had a radical idea: Test aid with the same method doctors use to test drugs (that is, randomized control trials).
The idea is quite simple. Give some families aid but others nothing. Then follow both groups, and see if the aid actually made a difference in the long run.
Karlan, who’s now a professor at Yale University, says many people were skeptical. „I have many conversations with people who say, 'You want to do what? Why would you want to do that?’ ”
One issue is that some families go home empty handed, with no aid. So the idea seems unethical. But Karlan disagrees. „The whole point of this is to help more people,” he says.
„What It Takes To Lift Families Out Of Poverty”