Gates Foundation Should Test Development, Poverty Alleviation Approaches In Randomized Trials

Vox: Bill Gates wants to give the poor chickens. What they need is cash.
Chris Blattman, Ramalee E. Pearson professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts

“Dear Bill, … I’m writing you to say that, when it comes to donating to the poor, cash is still probably your best bet. … Given the state of current research, neither of us can say definitively whether livestock or cash is better — or under what circumstances one might be better than the other. But the answer is in easy reach if only someone would conduct a thorough experiment to test the two approaches. It is irresponsible of us not to do so. … Giving away chickens probably works best if we give them to just a few of the poor. … ‘Give a man a start-up grant,’ I say, ‘and he can buy chickens, or fishing lessons, or open a shop.’ Cash is more versatile than livestock or skills. And time and again, the research has shown that the poor make good investment choices when given the opportunity. … When it comes to ending poverty, you could tell people that we don’t know the answer yet, but it is answerable. You could say: ‘The future is randomized trials testing different poverty programs against one another in many countries, focusing on cost-effectiveness’…” (3/14).