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Evidence-Based Policymaking Primer

In the information age, the American public can increasingly access information to learn about new issues, change how they perceive problems and solutions, or validate their existing perspectives. Using this information can help individuals to make informed consumer and lifestyle choices:

  • When purchasing a home, individuals can find out about the history, quality, size, and amenities because these data are collected and publicly available. Buyers can search online records, talk to a real estate agent, and tour the home to assess if the property meets their needs. An inspector may offer additional expertise about conditions that could affect how much the home is worth.
  • When buying a new smartphone, consumers can survey the market to understand the options before making a selection to identify durability, battery life, camera quality, or memory. Sales representatives can help explain differences among options and online reviews enabling consumers to understand the experience of others.
  • When driving a car, motorists rely on information about the fuel tank level to know how far they can drive and when they need to refuel to reach their destination. Routine check-ups by a mechanic can help reduce the uncertainty about other factors to ensure the car’s effective operation.

These examples demonstrate how in our personal lives, data can be compiled to provide valuable information that we rely on to make decisions. Credible and valid information that is straightforwardly presented, including with the help of experts, allows us to focus our attention on making good decisions based on our needs and goals.

Why Base Policies on Evidence?

Just as individuals want to make the best decisions for activities in their own lives, government should also be expected to use information to operate effectively and efficiently. With technological advancements and more information available to understand issues, expectations for government’s effectiveness are more widespread. Policymakers require accurate and reliable information, which is not always available, for making decisions in government. The increased application of evidence to policymaking can help ensure anti-poverty programs improve economic mobility, substance abuse treatment initiatives decrease the overdose death rate, and teaching and student retention policies improve student learning and career outcomes.

For policymakers and others to trust evidence, evaluations must avoid political motivations and be executed with valid research methodologies. Additionally, evidence should be fed into the decision-making process, rather than be collected afterwards to validate or support an existing decision

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