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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.

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File URL: http://www.treasury.gov.au/PublicationsAndMedia/Publications/2009/Economic-Roundup-Issue-1
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Article provided by The Treasury, Australian Government in its journal Economic Roundup.

Volume (Year): (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 27-43

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Handle: RePEc:tsy:journl:journl_tsy_er_2009_1_3
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