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Stephen Bell, Ph.D.

Vice President, Social & Economic Policy

Stephen Bell, Ph.D. Stephen Bell, Ph.D.

Stephen Bell, Ph.D., has spent three decades evaluating how social programs can improve the well-being of disadvantaged Americans and people worldwide. An expert in random-assignment impact evaluations, Dr. Bell first joined Abt Associates in 1983, then rejoined the company in 2005 as an Abt Fellow and Principal Scientist in the Social and Economic Policy Division. He regularly develops flexible, rigorous scientific methods for measuring social programs’ effectiveness using experimental and quasi-experimental designs and has published often from his methodological work in peer-reviewed journals and books. From 1996 to 2005, he worked in The Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center.

Dr. Bell specializes in econometric impact evaluations of programs that assist the nation’s most vulnerable workers and families. He provided scientific leadership to the National Head Start Impact Study, a landmark evaluation of early childhood development assistance as an anti-poverty strategy, and to studies of employment strategies for people receiving disability benefits in the United States and in Britain. He currently heads evaluation for six major social experiments, including the nine-year $130 million Social Security Disability Insurance Benefit Offset National Demonstration.  During the 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Bell’s contribution to the National Job Training Partnership Act Study helped reshape federal employment training policy and set the standard for rigorous evidence on program effectiveness in the federal government.

Dr. Bell holds a B.A. in Economics from Knox College and a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Expertise/Skills

  • Randomized social experiments
  • Econometric impact analysis
  • Employment and anti-poverty programs
  • International development policy evaluation




Key Projects

  • Benefit Offset National Demonstration, Social Security Administration
  • Family Options Study, HUD
  • Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children Demonstration, DoAg/FNS
  • AgResults Independent Impact Evaluation, U.K. Department for International Development




Selected Publications

  • Bell, Stephen H. & Laura R. Peck. (2013). Using Symmetric Prediction of Endogenous Subgroups for Causal Inferences about Program Effects Under Robust Assumptions: Part Two of a Method Note in Three Parts. American Journal of Evaluation, 34(2).
  • Olsen, Robert B, Larry L. Orr, Stephen H. Bell, & Elizabeth A. Stuart. (2013). External Validity in Policy Evaluations that Choose Sites Purposively. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 32(1).
  • Bell, Stephen H. & M. Cay Bradley.  (2013). Calculating Long-Run Impacts of Social Programs with Staggered Implementation. 44(1).Empirical Economics, February 2013.
  • Orr, Larry L., Stephen H. Bell, & Jacob A. Klerman. (2011). Designing Reliable Impact Evaluations, Designing Reliable Impact Evaluations, in The Workforce Investment Act:  Implementation Experiences and Evaluation Findings, edited by D. J. Besharov and P. H.Cottingham. Kalamazoo, MI: W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.