What Evidence should Social Policymakers Use?

Australian Treasury Economic Roundup, Vol. 1, pp. 27-43, 2009

18 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2009

See all articles by Andrew Leigh

Andrew Leigh

Australian House of Representatives Parliament House

Date Written: June 6, 2009

Abstract

Policymakers seeking empirical evidence on social policy interventions often find themselves confronted with a mountain of academic studies that are potentially relevant to the question. Without some systematic way to sort through the evidence, there is a risk that analysts will become mired in the research, or simply cherry-pick those studies that support their prior beliefs. An alternative approach is to test each study against a hierarchy of research methods. This article discusses two hierarchies - one used by US medical researchers, and another used by UK social policymakers - and suggests one possible hierarchy for Australia. Naturally, such a hierarchy should not be the only tool used to assess research, and should be used in conjunction with other factors, such as the ranking of the journal in which a study is published. But used carefully, a hierarchy can help policymakers sort through a daunting body of research, and may also inform governments’ decisions on how to evaluate social policy interventions.

Keywords: evidence hierarchy, randomised trials, natural experiments

JEL Classification: C1, C9

Suggested Citation

Leigh, Andrew, What Evidence should Social Policymakers Use? (June 6, 2009). Australian Treasury Economic Roundup, Vol. 1, pp. 27-43, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1415462 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1415462

Andrew Leigh (Contact Author)

Australian House of Representatives Parliament House

Canberra, 2600
Australia

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