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About the Lecture

Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) have become an increasingly used tool for governments to evaluate whether a particular program or improvement to a program could work. But once a government has that evidence, what determines if they will use it? For my paper on Bottlenecks for Evidence Adoption (with Woojin Kim and Elizabeth Linos), we identified 30 cities that had collectively run 73 RCTs with a national nudge unit, all testing communications interventions to improve specific programs (such as timely bill payment or recruiting a diverse police force). We went back to these cities to find out how many of the results had been adopted and why or why not. We also surveyed experts ahead of time for their predictions and compared thhem to our findings.

Overwhelmingly, we found the biggest barriers to adoption were not related to cost or the strength of evidence, but simply whether the city would have to create a new communication or change an existing one—in other words, organizational inertia. We also found that experts were overly optimistic about the role of evidence, and that prioritization by city leadership after the RCT plays an important role.

In this talk, I’ll cover these results, challenges to pursuing this kind of research, and talk about how researchers can potentially address bottlenecks to evidence adoption in their research design.

Talk by:
Stefano DellaVigna, Professor of Economics and Professor of Business Administration
University of California, Berkeley
Followed by an informal conversation with:
Anna Harvey, SSRC President

Stefano DellaVigna

Stefano DellaVigna is the Daniel Koshland, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Economics and Professor of Business Administration at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow (2008-10), and a Distinguished Teaching Award winner (2008). He specializes in Behavioral Economics and has published in international journals such as the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics. He was a co-editor of the American Economic Review from 2017 to 2023.

About the Lecture Series

For more than 100 years, the Social Science Research Council has mobilized policy-relevant social and behavioral science aimed at finding actionable solutions to pressing societal challenges. The Council’s College and University Fund for the Social Sciences is a network of nearly 50 research institutions that support our work to foster innovative and solutions-oriented social and behavioral science. In this virtual lecture series, faculty from College and University Fund member institutions share their work to understand how to pursue research that solves problems.

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