In 2017, MDRC released more than 80 reports, briefs, infographics, blog posts, and podcasts on programs affecting low-income Americans in all realms of education and social policy: education from preschool to postsecondary, workforce development, behavioral science, youth development, home visiting, community development, and more.
The Kansas Child Support Savings Initiative encourages parents to make deposits into tax-advantaged college savings plans in return for matching reductions in their child support debts. This report describes two randomized controlled trials conducted by Kansas and MDRC to test different methods of outreach and engagement.
Dilip Soman looks at the pros and cons of using heuristics in general and the “SIMPLER” framework in particular ― developed specifically by the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project ― to guide practitioners in their efforts to improve human services programs.
Lessons on Increasing College Completion from Six Talent Dividend Cities
The Talent Dividend competition encouraged major metro areas to find ways to boost their proportions of college graduates. The effort suggests that cross-sector partnerships and interventions that ease students’ transitions to the next level of education hold promise in aiding credit attainment and narrowing achievement gaps between groups of students.
The Incubator presents highlights of the year’s activities — the launch of monthly posts, conference workshops, numerous reports, and an array of new projects at MDRC involving implementation studies — and previews topics upcoming in 2018.
When Behavioral Interventions Aren’t Enough
Philip Oreopoulos’s commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project addresses the limitations of written communication and describes the value of personal interactions for building trusting relationships between service providers and clients, which in turn encourage active program participation.
Implementation and Early Impacts of the STEP Forward Program
This report presents implementation and interim impact findings from a random assignment evaluation of STEP Forward, a subsidized employment program in San Francisco serving a diverse group of low-income job seekers. In the first year, STEP Forward boosted employment and earnings, which suggests that participants obtained better jobs.
Assessing an intervention’s effects on multiple outcomes increases the risk of false positives. Procedures that make adjustments to address this risk can reduce power, or the probability of detecting effects that do exist. MDRC’s Reflections on Methodology discusses how to estimate power when making adjustments as well as alternative definitions of power.
Lawrence Katz explores questions raised by findings from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project: the potential effect of behavioral nudges on long-term outcomes, determining who responds to behavioral nudges but would not otherwise participate in a program, and moving to higher-intensity efforts when low-cost interventions are not enough.
Lessons from the BIAS Project
In child support programs, parents must often make complicated decisions with little information in a highly emotional context. The BIAS project, which applied behavioral insights to human services programs, worked with three states to design eight tests focusing on child support order modifications and collection of payments.