How Research Affects Policy: Experimental Evidence from 2,150 Brazilian Municipalities

60 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019

See all articles by Jonas Hjort

Jonas Hjort

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Diana Moreira

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Gautam Rao

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Juan Francisco Santini

Innovations for Poverty Action

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2019

Abstract

This paper investigates if research findings change political leaders’ beliefs and cause policy change. Collaborating with the National Confederation of Municipalities in Brazil, we work with 2,150 municipalities and the mayors who control their policies. We use experiments to measure mayors’ demand for research information and their response to learning research findings. In one experiment, we find that mayors and other municipal officials are willing to pay to learn the results of impact evaluations, and update their beliefs when informed of the findings. They value larger-sample studies more, while not distinguishing on average between studies conducted in rich and poor countries. In a second experiment, we find that informing mayors about research on a simple and effective policy (reminder letters for taxpayers) increases the probability that their municipality implements the policy by 10 percentage points. In sum, we provide direct evidence that providing research information to political leaders can lead to policy change. Information frictions may thus help explain failures to adopt effective policies.

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Suggested Citation

Hjort, Jonas and Moreira, Diana and Rao, Gautam and Santini, Juan Francisco, How Research Affects Policy: Experimental Evidence from 2,150 Brazilian Municipalities (June 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25941, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405128

Jonas Hjort (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Diana Moreira

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

Gautam Rao

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Juan Francisco Santini

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

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