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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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    1. 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.
    2. Filmer, Deon & Hammer, Jeffrey S & Pritchett, Lant H, 2000. "Weak Links in the Chain: A Diagnosis of Health Policy in Poor Countries," The World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 15(2), pages 199-224, August.
    3. 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.
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