Making Academic Research Accessible Can Lead to Significant Policy Change
Research from Chazen Senior Scholar Jonas Hjort shows political leaders value research findings, even willing to pay to learn results of impact evaluations
NEW YORK – Hundreds of thousands of pages of academic papers are published each year. But do political leaders actually value these papers? And does this information sway their policy decisions? Recent research from Jonas Hjort, Chazen Senior Scholar at Columbia Business School, provides some of the first direct evidence that political leaders are interested in, update their beliefs in response to, and ultimately act on new research findings.
Hjort, alongside researchers at Harvard University, UC Davis, and Innovations for Poverty Action, conducted two experiments in collaboration with the National Confederation of Municipalities in Brazil. With access to 2,150 municipalities and the mayors who govern them, the researchers tested the mayors’ demand for research and whether their beliefs changed after being presented with findings about the impacts of a given policy.
In the first experiment, the researchers found that policymakers tended to update their beliefs about the effectiveness of the policy in question, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program, after learning the results of the impact evaluation. Officials were even more likely to update their beliefs if they held a college degree and, notably, if the official received a large sample study. Where the studies were conducted also mattered. Studies conducted in developing countries similar to Brazil, as opposed to developed countries like the United States, appeared to carry less weight in shifting their beliefs.
The second experiment invited a large group of mayors to a research information session at the National Confederation of Municipalities’ annual convention. The session included a presentation about a policy tool that would provide reminder letters to taxpayers to encourage them to comply with taxes. At the end of the session, officials were provided with a printed policy brief summarizing the information. The findings show a 33 percent increase among officials that attended the information session in the probability they had implemented taxpayer reminders 15–24 months later.
The paper, “How Research Affects Policy: Experimental Evidence from 2,150 Brazilian Municipalities,” is authored by Jonas Hjort, Chazen Senior Scholar at Columbia Business School; Diana Moreira, assistant professor at UC Davis; Gautam Rao, associate professor at Harvard University; and Juan Francisco Santini, post-doctoral research fellow at Innovations for Poverty Action.
For more information, please read the related Chazen Institute research brief (PDF).
About Columbia Business School
Columbia Business School is the only world–class, Ivy League business school that delivers a learning experience where academic excellence meets with real–time exposure to the pulse of global business. The School's transformative curriculum bridges academic theory with unparalleled exposure to real world business practice, equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to recognize, capture, and create opportunity in any business environment. The thought leadership of the School's faculty and staff, combined with the accomplishments of its distinguished alumni and position in the center of global business, means that the School's efforts have an immediate, measurable impact on the forces shaping business every day. To learn more about Columbia Business School's position at the very center of business, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.
About the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business
The Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business is the interdisciplinary hub of global business knowledge at Columbia Business School. By injecting a global viewpoint into coursework, supporting research on global business, and sponsoring provocative forums where business leaders and policy-makers engage in vigorous debate, we pool the vast wealth of knowledge that exists within Columbia Business School, distill it for people who operate in the world’s marketplace, and provide a global network for lifelong learning.
About Jonas Hjort
Jonas Hjort is the Gary Winnick and Martin Granoff Associate Professor of Business and a Chazen Senior Scholar at Columbia Business School. His research focuses on firms, organizations and workers in developing countries. He teaches Managerial Economics and a Global Immersion course on East Africa.
Hjort received his PhD in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.