The latest episode of Freakonomics is on the importance of using randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine the effectiveness of healthcare:
As we’ve regularly noted in the past, economists and other academic researchers have increasingly been using RCTs to study all sorts of things, including how to best fight poverty. At the forefront of this movement is J-PAL, or the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, at MIT. The award-winning economist Esther Duflo, one of J-PAL’s founders, has helped run many RCTs in India, Kenya, and elsewhere, trying to learn how best to prevent teen pregnancy and anemia, and drunk driving; and how to better incentivize nurses, small-business growth, and modern farming techniques.
In this episode, we turn our attention to the U.S. and J-PAL’s efforts to learn about what really works in healthcare delivery. We focus on research done by the MIT economist Amy Finkelstein and several colleagues, whose growing body of work in this realm is fascinating.
As Finkelstein tells us in the podcast, RCTs are far too rare in healthcare delivery — which is a shame, for the link between healthcare and poverty is strong.