Policymakers are increasingly turning to insights gained from the experimental method as a means to inform large scale public policies. Critics view this increased usage as premature, pointing to the fact that many experimentally-tested programs fail to deliver their promise at scale. Under this view, the experimental approach drives too much public policy. Yet, if policymakers could be more confident that the original research findings would be delivered at scale, even the staunchest critics would carve out a larger role for experiments to inform policy. Leveraging the economic framework of Al-Ubaydli et al. (2019), we put forward 12 simple proposals, spanning researchers, policymakers, funders, and stakeholders, which together tackle the most vexing scalability threats. The framework highlights that only after we deepen our understanding of the scale up problem will we be on solid ground to argue that scientific experiments should hold a more prominent place in the policymaker’s quiver.

More Research From These Scholars

BFI Working Paper Apr 30, 2019

Measuring Success in Education: The Role of Effort on the Test Itself

John List, Uri Gneezy, Jeffrey A. Livingston, Xiangdong Qin, Sally Sadoff, Yang Xu
Topics:  Early Childhood Education
BFI Working Paper Oct 21, 2019

Design and Analysis of Cluster-Randomized Field Experiments in Panel Data Settings

Bharat K. Chandar, Ali Hortaçsu, John List, Ian Muir, Jeffrey M. Wooldridge
Topics:  Employment & Wages
BFI Working Paper Jun 1, 2016

A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem: Solving Externalities by Incenting Workers Directly

John List, Greer Gosnell, Robert D. Metcalfe
Topics:  Early Childhood Education, Energy & Environment, Healthcare, K-12 Education, Economic Mobility & Poverty, Fiscal Studies