More and more I wonder whether the causal fetish club in labor and development economics (of which I am a card-carrying member) is asking too many old and tired questions with clever causation rather than new and important questions.
There is a limit, however small, rigorous and valuable, that causality obsession places on the set of questions a researcher can ask. As I said back last year, "why" should not be an afterthought and questions should not be inspired merely by rainfall:
However, my concern is that the exogeneity bar (likely due to the gold standard of randomized controlled trials) has been raised so high that our focus on exogeneity as the primary objective can consequently side-line development research objectives.... my fear is that switching the objective of the research to exogeneity limits the set of development questions we might even ask.
From the Elusive Quest for Exogeneity.