White House supports use of behavioral science insights in policymaking

September 30, 2015
The SBST team with President Obama

On September 15, the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) released results from seventeen randomized evaluations and research projects in Federal agencies. The SBST tests how insights from behavioral economics and psychology can improve the effectiveness of government programs. President Barack Obama also issued an Executive Order encouraging Federal agencies to use behavioral science insights to better serve the American people (the report is available in pdf).

“I would like to recognize academic researchers at institutions across the country who are engaging in applied research, as well as ideas42, J-PAL North America, and the Behavioral Science and Policy Association for their continued efforts to help demonstrate how behavioral science can be a tool for solving some our country’s challenges,” said SBST chairwoman Maya Shankar, here with President Obama and the SBST team.

The report cites many findings from randomized evaluations with the potential to improve the design of government programs, like, for example, how a single email from the Department of Defense nearly doubled the rate at which service members signed up for the Thrift Savings Plan, a retirement plan for Federal employees.

J-PAL North America (NA) has been proud to support SBST. Kelly Bidwell, former country director for Ghana at Innovations for Poverty Action and J-PAL NA senior policy manager, was seconded to SBST as one of five initial team members, and has since fully transitioned to SBST. J-PAL NA also led a training for the team on conducting and communicating randomized evaluations, and has committed to contributing to a “Behavioral Science and Policy Series” to identify promising avenues for applying behavioral science to public policy in order to improve Americans’ lives.

For more information on the SBST and J-PAL NA’s policy work, please email Graham Simpson.