Replication Redux: The Reproducibility Crisis and the Case of Deworming

Published in World Bank Research Observer, 2021


In 2004, a landmark study showed that an inexpensive medication to treat parasitic worms could improve health and school attendance for millions of children in many developing countries. Eleven years later, a headline in The Guardian reported that this treatment, deworming, had been “debunked.” The pronouncement followed an effort to replicate and re-analyze the original study, as well as an update to a systematic review of the effects of deworming. This story made waves amidst discussion of a reproducibility crisis in some of the social sciences. In this paper, I explore what it means to “replicate” and “reanalyze” a study, both in general and in the specific case of deworming. I review the broader replication efforts in economics, then examine the key findings of the original deworming paper in light of the “replication,” “reanalysis,” and “systematic review.” I also discuss the nature of the link between this single paper’s findings, other papers’ findings, and any policy recommendations about deworming. Through this example, I provide a perspective on the ways replication and reanalysis work, the strengths and weaknesses of systematic reviews, and whether there is, in fact, a reproducibility crisis in economics.

Other versions

Link to published paper in the World Bank Research Observer

Earlier version appears as World Bank WPS 8835, April 2019, also available from SSRN.

Other details

JEL codes: A14, B41, C18, C38, C59, C80, I10, I15, I18, O15

Recommended citation: Ozier, Owen. "Replication Redux: The Reproducibility Crisis and the Case of Deworming." World Bank Research Observer, 36, no. 1 (February 2021): 101-130