IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

What evidence should social policymakers use?


  • Andrew Leigh

    (Treasury, Government of Australia)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Leigh, 2009. "What evidence should social policymakers use?," Economic Roundup, The Treasury, Australian Government, issue 1, pages 27-43, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:tsy:journl:journl_tsy_er_2009_1_3

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2005. "Does school accountability lead to improved student performance?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 297-327.
    2. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2006. "School accountability and student performance," Regional Economic Development, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 51-61.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. Klemen Sirok & Gregor Petric, 2011. "Impact measurement revised: Evaluating the Impact of the Lifelong Learning Programme in Slovenia," MIC 2011: Managing Sustainability? Proceedings of the 12th International Conference, Portorož, 23–26 November 2011 [Selected Papers], University of Primorska, Faculty of Management Koper.
    2. Brian W. Head, 2014. "Research and its policy relevance," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Spatially Integrated Social Science, chapter 27, pages 603-616 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    policy-making; social welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tsy:journl:journl_tsy_er_2009_1_3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (The Treasury (Commonwealth of Australia)). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.