For the first time in history, the Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to three researchers who established an applied and non-theoretical methodology. Evaluate and design better public policies, carry out interventions in the field of social development, health or education are some of the actions that can be implemented based on this innovative experimental approach in the social sciences. The works of the Indian Abhijit Banerjee, the French Esther Duflo and the American Michael Kremer
allowed to recognize the causes, consequences and possible solutions to combat structural poverty in the world.
“The great contribution of these economists, who lead an academic network replicated in 180 countries, including Argentina, called Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL),
It is to use in social sciences a methodology that existed in other disciplines, such as in Medicine. They have personally tested it in Africa and in India, “explains Ernesto Schargrodsky, former rector of the Torcuato Di Tella University and local researcher of this network.
Through a randomized controlled trial (RCT), “a relatively uniform population is taken and for random reasons, some individuals receive some treatment that others do not get.” After a follow-up to both comparable groups,
“You can see the impact of the incentive and establish causal relationships”, reveals Schargrodsky.
Case studies in Argentina
Schargrodsky's first investigation began in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Francisco Solano in 2004. “There, 1800 families had occupied vacant lands and after the expropriation law, half of them received the title deed and the other half did not,” Schargrodsky highlights. After years of study, they verified that
the group that received the titles “took better care of homes, had better health conditions, fewer teenage pregnancies and better educational results.”
According to Schargrodsky, the experiment contributed to a series of “interventions to move forward with urbanization and titling programs in Villa 31”.
On the other hand, in 2011, the economist used this technique to investigate whether the Compulsory Military Service increased or decreased the propensity to commit a crime. In conclusion, and contrary to expectations,
“Those who went to the service suffered an interruption in their studies, their labor insertion and showed a greater tendency to have committed crimes.”
Also in 2012, together with economist Rafael Di Tella, they tested the use of electronic monitoring wristbands as an alternative to incarceration and found that this option reduces the recidivism of criminals. “When it is his first prison experience there is less propensity to commit crimes. Prisons are criminological,” says Schargrodsky.
Currently, in the same methodological line and in collaboration with the Board of Trustees of Buenos Aires, the investigator is working with a group of former detainees to determine if the granting of social plans could reduce the possibility of falling into the crime.
I hope that thanks to the international recognition of Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer, these experiments will become more feasible.
Improve public policies
Natalia Aquilino, director of Monitoring and Evaluation of the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), another of the organizations that uses the contribution of the winners in very varied fields.
From the NGO, which offers recommendations to build better public policies, they establish a baseline first and, after a thorough evaluation period, carry out a program in accompaniment of a provincial or municipal government.
One of the “best experiences” that Aquilino remembers, was the one made between 2017 and 2018 in the Youth Activities Centers (CAJ) together with the Ministry of Education and Sports of the Nation. In the provinces of Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Misiones and Tucumán, two groups of young people who attended school with similar characteristics were compared. While some practiced extracurricular workshops in institutional spaces on a voluntary basis, others did not.
The main discovery of this experiment was that, among the students who were attached to the programs,
“the absenteeism was reduced, they were more satisfied with the school, they increased the probability of having satisfaction in their life and they presented a slight improvement in the probability of continuing studying in the future”, Aquilino details.
Another project that helped improve the quality of life of children and mothers of the San Miguel party, in Buenos Aires, has been the 1000-day Program, implemented in 2017. It was a comprehensive evaluation, from where the Municipality provided a joint attention to families based on their health, housing, nutrition and care needs.
Among the results, they obtained two unexpected ones: first, the value that the beneficiaries gave to the figure of the companion who helped resolve family conflicts, and secondly, the personal projection of the women participating in the study.
“The mothers said they had a life project thanks to this intervention,” says Aquilino.
While he understands that these projects involve “a large economic investment,” he believes they are critical to assess the effectiveness of government policies.
For the CIPPEC specialist,
“This methodology is very useful because it helps you answer public management questions. We want to improve the design of a program or inform new ones, so that the State has the capacity to understand and provide the benefit of these experiences.”
(tagsToTranslate) Poverty: how the proposals of the Nobel Prize for Economics in the country are applied – LA NACION
Publicado en el diario La Nación