fbpx Stone Inequality & Social Policy Seminar | Harvard Kennedy School
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Date and Location

September 18, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET
B-500 Bell Hall

​​The Stone Program in Wealth Distribution, Inequality, and Social Policy welcomes Professor Stefano DellaVigna to speak in the Stone Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series. 
Bottlenecks for Evidence Adoption 
Stefano DellaVigna (Daniel Koshland, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Economics and Professor of Business Administration, UC Berkeley) 
Abstract: Governments
increasingly use RCTs to test innovations, yet we know little about
whether and how they incorporate the results into policy-making. We
study 30 U.S. cities which collectively ran 73 RCTs in collaboration
with a national Nudge Unit. Compared to most contexts, the barriers to
adoption are low. Yet, the cities adopt a nudge treatment in follow-on
communication, and thus change policy in response to evidence, in 27% of
cases. As potential determinants of adoption we consider (i) the
strength of the evidence in the RCT, (ii) features of the organization,
and (iii) the experimental design. We find a limited impact of (i)
strength of the evidence and (ii) city features; by far the largest
predictor is (iii) whether the RCT was implemented as part of
pre-existing communication, as opposed to in a new communication. The
results differ from the predictions of both experts and practitioners,
who over-estimate the extent of evidence-based adoption. We identify as a
leading explanation organizational inertia: changes to pre-existing
communications are more naturally folded into year-to-year city
processes. Higher adoption for pre-existing communication is consistent
also with evidence in other settings, including a re-analysis of Hjort
et al. (2021). A survey of non-adopting cities in our sample suggests
that a key barrier to adoption is insufficient leadership prioritization
post RCT. (Co-authored with Woojin Kim and Elizabeth Linos) 

Stefano DellaVigna is
the Daniel Koshland, Sr., Distinguished Professor of Economics and
Professor of Business Administration at the University of California,
Berkeley. He specializes in Behavioral Economics (Psychology and
Economics) and is a co-director of the Berkeley Initiative for
Behavioral Economics and Finance. He has published in international
journals such as the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of
Economics, the Journal of Finance, and the Journal of Labor Economics.
He has been a Principal Investigator for an NSF Grant, an Alfred P.
Sloan Fellow, and is a Distinguished Teaching Award winner. He was also a
co-editor of the Journal of the European Economic Association (JEEA).
His recent work has focused on the economics of the media, and in
particular the impact on voting (through persuasion) and the study of
conflicts of interest; the design of model-based field experiments,
including the role of social pressure in charitable giving and voting,
and the analysis of scientific journals and in particular editorial
choices; the study of reference-dependence for unemployed workers.                    

Speakers and Presenters

​Stefano DellaVigna (Daniel Koshland, Sr. Distinguished Professor of Economics and Professor of Business Administration, UC Berkeley)