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It pays to be ignorant: A simple political economy of rigorous program evaluation

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  • Lant Pritchett

Abstract

This paper attempts to explain the scarcity of rigorous evaluations of public policy. I build a positive model to explain the "stylized fact" that there is under investment in the creation of reliable empirical knowledge about the impacts of public sector actions. The model shows how "advocates" of particular issues or solutions - the public action equivalent of entrepreneurs - have incentives to under invest in knowledge creation because having credible estimates of the impact of their preferred program may undermine their ability to mobilize political (budgetary) support.

Suggested Citation

  • Lant Pritchett, 2002. "It pays to be ignorant: A simple political economy of rigorous program evaluation," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 251-269.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jpolrf:v:5:y:2002:i:4:p:251-269
    DOI: 10.1080/1384128032000096832
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-277, June.
    2. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2002. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1535-1558, December.
    3. Filmer, Deon & Hammer, Jeffrey S & Pritchett, Lant H, 2000. "Weak Links in the Chain: A Diagnosis of Health Policy in Poor Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 15(2), pages 199-224, August.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Development that Works: One Laptop per Child revisited
      by Pablo Ibarrarán in Eval Central on 2012-06-18 15:59:46
    2. Revisitando Una Laptop por Niño
      by Pablo Ibarrarán in Hacia el desarrollo efectivo on 2012-06-19 01:31:27
    3. Lant Pritchett v the Randomistas on the nature of evidence – is a wonkwar brewing?
      by Duncan in From Poverty to Power on 2012-11-21 14:00:30

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maren Duvendack & Richard W. Palmer-Jones & W. Robert Reed, 2015. "Replications in Economics: A Progress Report," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 12(2), pages 164–191-1, May.
    2. Christopher Robert & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "The methodology of normative policy analysis," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(3), pages 613-643, June.
    3. repec:pri:rpdevs:hammer_its_all_about_me is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Cristina Corduneanu-Huci & Michael T. Dorsch & Paul Maarek, 2017. "Learning to constrain: Political competition and randomized controlled trials in development," THEMA Working Papers 2017-24, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    5. Pritchett, Lant & Samji, Salimah & Hammer, Jeffrey S., 2012. "It's All about MeE: Using Structured Experiential Learning ('e') to Crawl the Design Space," WIDER Working Paper Series 104, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. repec:mpr:mprres:6606 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. World Bank, 2006. "India - District Poverty Initiatives Project : Joint Interim Assessment - Understanding Differences in Project Design," World Bank Other Operational Studies 19468, The World Bank.
    8. Belot, Michèle & James, Jonathan, 2016. "Partner selection into policy relevant field experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 31-56.
    9. Karlan, Dean & Wood, Daniel H., 2017. "The effect of effectiveness: Donor response to aid effectiveness in a direct mail fundraising experiment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 1-8.
    10. Michael Bamberger & Vijayendra Rao & Michael Woolcock, 2009. "Using Mixed Methods in Monitoring and Evaluation: Experiences from International Development’," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 10709, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    11. Copestake, James, 2007. "Mainstreaming Microfinance: Social Performance Management or Mission Drift?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 1721-1738, October.
    12. Barrientos Armando & Villa Juan Miguel, 2015. "Evaluating Antipoverty Transfer Programmes in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Better Policies? Better Politics?," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 147-179, June.
    13. Michael Woolcock, 2007. "Higher education, policy schools, and development studies: what should masters degree students be taught?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(1), pages 55-73.
    14. Lorenzo Moreno & Larissa Campuzano & Dan Levy & Randall Blair, 2009. "Hacia el Cierre de la Brecha en la Evaluacin Lecciones sobre Tres Recientes Evaluaciones de Impacto de Programas Sociales en Amrica Latina y el Caribe," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 67f7ac69c2364f088fd322a34, Mathematica Policy Research.
    15. Miguel Szekely, 2011. "Toward Results-Based Social Policy Design and Implementation - Working Paper 249," Working Papers 249, Center for Global Development.
    16. Vaessen, Jos & Todd, David, 2008. "Methodological challenges of evaluating the impact of the Global Environment Facility's biodiversity program," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 231-240, August.
    17. Margaret Grosh & Carlo del Ninno & Emil Tesliuc & Azedine Ouerghi, 2008. "For Protection and Promotion : The Design and Implementation of Effective Safety Nets," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6582.

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