The trials of randomization

One of my busiest projects at the moment is working on behavior change in Liberian street youth, aiming to reduce poverty, crime and violence.

One of the interventions dispenses $200 cash grants to half the cohort. “We don’t want to get $200 by lottery,” they say, “we’d like $100 each.” I sympathize. They are pleased to be in the program but being a research subject is not all smiles.

We dispensed cash to our pilot group just a few weeks ago. As the lottery was won or lost, and the cash handed out or not, our assistants noticed money changing hands. “Risk-sharing groups” was the answer. Good grief. At least they didn’t totally unwind the experiment. Winners kept the bulk while sharing smaller amounts with losers — $50 or maybe just $25. An interesting outcome in itself.

The researchee defeats the researcher. I wonder if they realized that they could completely insure one another and get the outcome they want. Would I be that surprised if one managed to track down my blog and saw the idea as it is? I’m now not so sure…