Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education
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Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education

Edited by Rolf Becker

Presenting original contributions from the key experts in the field, the Research Handbook on the Sociology of Education explores the major theoretical, methodological, empirical and political challenges and pressing social questions facing education in current times.
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Chapter 9: Experiments in the sociology of education: causal inference and estimating causal effects in sociological research on education

Christoph Zangger and Rolf Becker

Abstract

We critically examine how experimental designs are used to address causal questions in the sociology of education. Starting with some general thoughts about causality, causal inference and the underlying counterfactual approach, we review different applications of experimental testing in the lab and field as well as survey and natural experiments throughout sociological and economic research on education. In the discussion of these applications, we highlight both the advantages and the limits of experiments in giving causal explanations of social phenomena, stressing the need to integrate the empirical framework within a coherent theoretical background that links cause and effect.

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