The Atlantic

A/B Testing Foreign Aid

For the first time, USAID compared a traditional intervention to a simple cash transfer.
Source: Cheryl Ravelo-Gagalac / Reuters

How can we innovate in the huge, $140 billion foreign aid sector? The same way we do in the private sector: routine evaluations of what’s working well and what isn’t. Yet donors rarely measure the effectiveness of individual programs, let alone weigh one intervention against another. The United States’ Agency for International Development (USAID), for example, conducted just one experimental evaluation per year, roughly, from 2011 to 2014. In each case, USAID compared the welfare of

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