Researchers and policy makers are increasingly dissatisfied with the “average treatment effect.” Not only are they interested in learning about the coarse causal effects of policy interventions overall, but they want to know what specifically it is about the intervention that is responsible for any observed effects. In the U.S., using experimentally-designed evaluation to capture the average treatment effect is both commonplace and preferred practice; but, as this paper argues, there are many important questions yet to be asked and answered via our body of experimental research. This paper recasts earlier work on analyzing “what works” as this call to action for evaluators and policy analysts: We can and should do better.
The Thought Leadership Paper series launched in August 2012 as another path for Abt Associates’ talented staff to share their ideas with the world. The series includes working papers, white papers, and re-publications representing a rich diversity of thought leadership from across Abt Associates. Papers in the series undergo a rigorous internal peer-review process.