MDRC in the News

6 Ways the Next Administration Could Use Evidence-Based Policy to Advance Social Justice

Op-Ed by Andrew Feldman
GovExec Daily


Using data and research to improve program outcomes may not make for a catchy campaign slogan, but it can go a long way toward reducing economic and racial disparities.

Under the radar for most Americans has been an important bipartisan movement over the past two decades to strengthen evidence-based policy and get more impact from government spending. How could the next presidential administration build on that momentum and, even better, greatly catalyze it?

The need for evidence-informed policies and programs has become urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic and the killings of George Floyd and other unarmed African Americans at the hands of police have highlighted the need to reduce economic and racial disparities. How can the use of data and research help address that challenge?

To try to address both these questions, here are six specific ideas that the next presidential administration, working closely with Congress, could take to meaningfully strengthen the use of evidence in government, especially in ways that further social justice. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns could champion these ideas now.

1. Use existing evidence to launch new policy responses. While important gaps exist in our knowledge about how to effectively reduce economic and racial disparities, enough rigorous research already exists to take bold action now. A useful summary of the evidence in one area, for example, is the 2014 MDRC report “Boosting the Life Chances of Young Men of Color.” The next administration should champion a package of evidence-based policies that would improve outcomes and economic mobility for disadvantaged youth and adults. That includes efforts to boost high school and community college graduation rates, improve employment outcomes, and reduce prison recidivism….

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