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.
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.
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.
MDRC’s work can improve policy and practice only if influential people know about it and can easily use it. An important part of making sure that decision-makers hear about what we’ve learned is getting attention in the mainstream and trade press. Here are some of MDRC’s most prominent media mentions from 2017.
Researchers developing behavioral interventions begin by defining a problem, identifying “bottlenecks” that might hamper desired outcomes, and designing and testing possible solutions. In this Expert Commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Crystal Hall suggests three ideas for expanding the use of this process.
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.
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.
Implementation research on community initiatives should be able to read networks. This means understanding not just the presence or absence of partnerships, but also core patterns of collaboration, the distribution of network power, and the depth of local relationships.
In September 2017, MDRC released interim findings from the Paycheck Plus demonstration and evaluation of an enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers without dependent children in New York City. Here are a few answers to questions we’ve received about the results.