"Training Policy-Makers in Econometrics"
The credibility revolution triggered a paradigm shift in the social sciences. This paper examines its causal effects on policymakers in a “mastering metrics” training program. We separate the demand for mastering metrics from its impact with a simplified Becker Degroot Marshak mechanism. Policymakers could choose a high or low probability for randomly receiving a mastering metrics book or a self-help placebo book. After receiving the book, individuals entered an intense training workshop that included watching videos made by the authors of the book summarizing key concepts, reading the complete book, summarizing each chapter, discussing, and applying the book’s concepts in their policymaking. Three contributions emerge. First, we document large persistent effects. Treated individuals' beliefs about the importance of quantitative analysis increases 35% in the short-term and grows to 50% in the longer-term. Text analysis of their writings reflect a shift in perceived importance of causal inference. Second, treated individuals are more likely to commission an RCT using public and private funding, distrust correlations, and adopt policies where there is experimental evidence. The last result is driven by individuals whose priors are less than the estimates of the RCT. Third, we unveil an innovative behavioral measure of IV defiers by offering both sets of videos and tracking click behavior. Few defiers are observed, and they are less affected by treatment. The mastering metrics training program does not come at the expense of reduced prosociality as measured in field visits to orphanages and impoverished schools nor in their writings as measured by phrases associated with compassion, kindness and social cohesion.
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