On the Evidence

MATHEMATICA

A podcast hosted by Mathematica’s J.B. Wogan that examines what we know about today’s most urgent challenges and how we can make progress in addressing them. Reimagining the way the world gathers and uses data, Mathematica uncovers the evidence that offers our partners the confidence and clarity they need to find out what can be done, how to make it happen, and where to go next. read less
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Episodes

118 | Moving from Evidence Generation to Evidence Use in President Biden's 2025 Budget
Yesterday
118 | Moving from Evidence Generation to Evidence Use in President Biden's 2025 Budget
In March, when the Biden administration released its budget request for fiscal year 2025, it not only offered a blueprint for the president’s policymaking agenda—it also provided the latest indication of how the White House and federal agencies are going beyond evidence generation to use evidence as a guide in making program investments that can improve Americans’ lives. For this episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast, Nichole Dunn, the vice president of federal policy at Results for America, joins the show to discuss evidence-based policy in the president’s budget as well as larger trends in federal and state funding of evidence-based initiatives and programs. On the episode, Dunn speaks with Mike Burns, senior director of communications and public affairs at Mathematica, about American Rescue Plan spending, the growth of evidence clearinghouses, the increasing level of federal investment in program evaluation, the implications of the presidential election for federal investment in evidence-based policy, the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the recent formation of the bipartisan Congressional What Works Caucus, the Congressional Evidence-Based Policymaking Resolution, and the potential for evidence-based policy to bypass partisan gridlock in Washington. A full transcript of the conversation is available at mathematica.org/blogs/evidence-based-policy-in-president-bidens-2025-budget Read an op-ed by Michele Jolin, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Results for America, about how bipartisan elected leaders and career civil servants across the country who have been quietly transforming how governments invest taxpayer dollars to achieve better results: https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2024/03/from-minnesota-to-washington-d-c-a-better-way-to-deliver-results/ Read the research brief by Mathematica for Results for America, which shows how city governments with a history of prioritizing data-driven practices were more likely to use federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to deepen their commitment to results-driven governance—with the goal of improving outcomes for residents through effective programs: https://mathematica.org/publications/unlocking-the-power-of-city-data Watch a recording from the January 2024 virtual event hosted by Results for America to discuss the federal government’s progress in using evidence and data to get better results, which featured the release of a new report by Harvard University Professor Christina Ciocca Eller on federal evidence-based policymaking efforts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMYwG6P-1zI Read the 2023 Invest in What Works State Standard of Excellence from Results for America, which showcases 194 efforts across 46 states to build and use evidence and data to improve residents’ lives: https://results4america.org/tools/2023-invest-in-what-works-state-standard-of-excellence/ Explore the ARP Data and Evidence Dashboard from Mathematica and Results for America, which highlights how state and local government leaders are investing one-time federal pandemic relief and economic recovery funds and using data and evidence to get better results: https://results4america.org/tools/arp-dashboard/
117 | Moody’s Mark Zandi on Being a Voice for Data-Driven Decisions in Public Policy
Apr 3 2024
117 | Moody’s Mark Zandi on Being a Voice for Data-Driven Decisions in Public Policy
The latest episode of On the Evidence features Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. On the episode, Zandi speaks with Paul Decker, Mathematica’s president and chief executive officer, about comprehensive immigration reform, artificial intelligence, labor shortages, remote work, the merits of pursuing a nonacademic career in economic research, and how Zandi seeks to influence politically charged policy debates with data and credibility. Zandi is the author of two books related to the Great Recession and hosts the Inside Economics podcast. A video version of the episode as well as a full transcript is available at https://mathematica.org/blogs/mark-zandi-chief-economist-of-moodys-analytics-on-data-driven-decisions-in-public-policy Listen to the Inside Economics podcast that Zandi hosts along with Cris deRitis and Marisa DiNatale for Moody’s Analytics: https://www.moodys.com/web/en/us/about/insights/podcasts/moodys-talks-inside-economics.html Read Paul Decker’s blog about how Mathematica used evidence to guide the company’s approach to reopening in-person offices after the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/letting-evidence-guide-decisions-about-reopening-offices Read an op-ed co-authored by Paul Decker for the website RealClearPolicy, which proposes comprehensive immigration reform and other solutions to address current labor shortages: https://www.realclearpolicy.com/articles/2023/04/25/without_immigration_reform_americas_labor_shortage_is_here_to_stay_895672.html
115 | Improving the Impact of Social Programs Through Better Evaluation
Mar 6 2024
115 | Improving the Impact of Social Programs Through Better Evaluation
A new episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast explores the idea that a more comprehensive approach to evaluation, including study of a program’s design and implementation, maximizes a program’s chances of success. The episode draws from a convening in January at Mathematica’s D.C. office at which experts from the federal government, philanthropy, academia, and research organizations discussed insights from the Oxford Handbook on Program Design and Implementation Evaluation, edited by Mathematica’s Anu Rangarajan. The episode features Rangarajan as well as seven other speakers who expand upon the idea that a more comprehensive approach to evaluation could provide more useful information about whether a program is working, and if not, how it could be tweaked to work. The following speakers also appear in the episode: - Michael Woolcock, lead social scientist, Development Research Group, World Bank - Paul Decker, president and chief executive officer, Mathematica - Emilie Bagby, director, international education, Mathematica - Alix Zwane, chief executive officer, Global Innovation Fund - Melissa Chiappetta, senior education advisor, Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. Agency for International Development - Douglas J. Besharov, professor, University of Maryland School of Public Policy - Michelle Sager, managing director for strategic issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office A transcript of the episode is available at https://mathematica.org/blogs/improving-the-impact-of-social-programs-through-better-evaluation Learn more about Mathematica Global, the new name and identity of Mathematica’s international unit: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/mathematica-global-brings-hindsight-insight-and-foresight Watch the full video recording from the January convening about improving the impact of social programs through a comprehensive approach to design and evaluation: https://www.mathematica.org/events/improving-the-impact-of-social-programs-through-a-comprehensive-approach-to-design-and-evaluation Listen to a previous episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast that features two of the speakers from the January event, Emilie Bagby and Melissa Chiappetta, discussing how the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Rescue Committee are building on an evidence review from Mathematica to help local education leaders implement effective programs and policies in northern Central America that will reduce local violence and crime: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/developing-education-programs-to-prevent-violence-and-crime-in-latin-america-and-the-caribbean
110 | Our Listeners on the Most Important Developments in Evidence and Well-Being in 2023
Dec 20 2023
110 | Our Listeners on the Most Important Developments in Evidence and Well-Being in 2023
For the final episode of 2023, Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast asked friends of the show to send short voice notes about important developments in evidence and well-being this year that will continue to matter in 2024. More than a dozen listeners and former guests responded to our call, highlighting significant milestones in health care, early childhood education, economic opportunity, climate change, disability policy, gender equality, and government agencies’ growing capacity to generate evidence that can improve programs’ effectiveness in the United States and abroad. On the episode, host J.B. Wogan discusses the year-in-review submissions with the show’s producer, Rick Stoddard. Thank you to the following contributors: • Selena Caldera, the AARP Public Policy Institute • Christina Ciocca Eller, Harvard University • Nichole Dunn, Results for America • Jill Constantine, Mathematica • Laurin Bixby, University of Pennsylvania • Jonathan Morse, Mathematica • Alex Olgin, Tradeoffs • Shana Christrup, Bipartisan Policy Center • Erin Taylor, Mathematica • Jeff Bernson, Mathematica • Berta Heybey, Millennium Challenge Corporation • Nancy Murray, Mathematica • Jane Fortson, Mathematica • Shannon Monahan, Mathematica • Bill Nichols, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity • Jeanne Bellotti, Mathematica • Elinor Higgins, National Academy for State Health Policy A full transcript of the episode, as well as links to all of the research and other resources mentioned on the episode, are available at mathematica.org/ontheevidence.
109, Part 2 | Improving Health Equity by Transforming Public Health Data Systems
Dec 13 2023
109, Part 2 | Improving Health Equity by Transforming Public Health Data Systems
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, inconsistent data collection and reporting made it difficult for U.S. public health agencies to respond to the disease's inequitable impacts. Demographic and socioeconomic factors, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, income, and disability status, were particularly challenging to capture. The same data issues would later impede agencies’ ability to prioritize vaccinations for the people most impacted by the pandemic. Even though COVID-19 is no longer a global public health emergency, the underlying data problems remain. “What’s at stake is saving lives,” says Alonzo Plough, chief science officer and vice president of research, evaluation, and learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), who joins us for this episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast. Plough explains, “bad data, lack of timely data, [and] lack of connected data” result in “missing opportunities for early intervention that can save lives.” In this two-part episode, Plough joins George Hobor, Javier Robles, and Anita Chandra, as they discuss the deficits of the U.S. public health data infrastructure, how these deficits affect health equity, and how public health agencies can improve their responses to public health crises by transforming their data systems. - Hobor is a senior program officer at RWJF. - Robles is director of the Center for Disability Sports, Health, and Wellness at Rutgers University and was a member of RWJF’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems. - Chandra is vice president and director of RAND Social and Economic Well-Being at the RAND Corporation. In part 1, Mathematica’s Deric Joyner speaks with Plough about the motivation behind the Transforming Public Health Data Systems initiative. In part 2, Mathematica’s Dave Roberts moderates a conversation between Hobor, Robles, and Chandra, about insights from the initiative and what changes need to happen next to improve the nation’s public health data infrastructure. Part 1 is available here: https://on.soundcloud.com/iQcZ4 Transcripts for parts 1 and 2 are available here: https://mathematica.org/blogs/improving-health-equity-by-transforming-public-health-data-systems
109, Part 1 | Improving Health Equity by Transforming Public Health Data Systems
Dec 13 2023
109, Part 1 | Improving Health Equity by Transforming Public Health Data Systems
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, inconsistent data collection and reporting made it difficult for U.S. public health agencies to respond to the disease's inequitable impacts. Demographic and socioeconomic factors, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, income, and disability status, were particularly challenging to capture. The same data issues would later impede agencies’ ability to prioritize vaccinations for the people most impacted by the pandemic. Even though COVID-19 is no longer a global public health emergency, the underlying data problems remain. “What’s at stake is saving lives,” says Alonzo Plough, chief science officer and vice president of research, evaluation, and learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), who joins us for this episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast. Plough explains, “bad data, lack of timely data, [and] lack of connected data” result in “missing opportunities for early intervention that can save lives.” In this two-part episode, Plough joins George Hobor, Javier Robles, and Anita Chandra, as they discuss the deficits of the U.S. public health data infrastructure, how these deficits affect health equity, and how public health agencies can improve their responses to public health crises by transforming their data systems. - Hobor is a senior program officer at RWJF. - Robles is director of the Center for Disability Sports, Health, and Wellness at Rutgers University and was a member of RWJF’s National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems. - Chandra is vice president and director of RAND Social and Economic Well-Being at the RAND Corporation. In part 1, Mathematica’s Deric Joyner speaks with Plough about the motivation behind the Transforming Public Health Data Systems initiative. In part 2, Mathematica’s Dave Roberts moderates a conversation between Hobor, Robles, and Chandra, about insights from the initiative and what changes need to happen next to improve the nation’s public health data infrastructure. Part 2 is available here: https://on.soundcloud.com/ZoipS Transcripts for parts 1 and 2 are available here: https://mathematica.org/blogs/improving-health-equity-by-transforming-public-health-data-systems
108 | How Artificial Intelligence Can Advance Health Equity
Nov 29 2023
108 | How Artificial Intelligence Can Advance Health Equity
In September 2023, Mathematica and Congressman Don Beyer’s office hosted an event on Capitol Hill to discuss artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications for health equity. This episode of On the Evidence features audio from the September event, anchored by Victoria Knight, a health care policy reporter for Axios, who interviewed Congressman Beyer and moderated a subsequent panel with Ellie Graeden, Jen Roberts, Ngan MacDonald, and Deliya Wesley. • Beyer represents the 8th Congressional District of Virginia and is a vice chair of both the bipartisan Congressional AI Caucus and an AI working group recently formed by the New Democrat Coalition. • Graeden is a professor at the Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security. • Roberts is a director of resilient systems at the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, also known as ARPA-H. • MacDonald is the chief of data operations for the Institute for AI in Medicine at Northwestern University. • Wesley is a senior director of health equity at Mathematica. Learn more about how Mathematica’s experts harness vast data, advanced analytics, and deep health care policy experience to help organizations make sense of real-world data in a way that enables exploration and innovation: https://mathematica.org/sp/data-analytics/real-world-data Find a transcript of the episode at mathematica.org/blogs/how-artificial-intelligence-can-advance-health-equity
105 | How Colorado Committed to Supporting Teacher Diversity and Why it Matters to Students
Oct 11 2023
105 | How Colorado Committed to Supporting Teacher Diversity and Why it Matters to Students
Teacher recruitment and retention challenges have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But even before that, students of diverse backgrounds have historically not seen themselves reflected in the adults in their classrooms and schools. Why does this matter? Students of color do better in school when they have teachers who share similar identities. For example, Black students with at least one Black teacher in grades K-3 are 13 percent more likely to graduate high school and 19 percent more likely to enroll in college than their same-race same-school peers. And all students benefit from diversity of the teacher workforce: teachers of color are positive role models for all students in breaking down negative stereotypes and preparing students to live and work in a multiracial society. This episode focuses on efforts to diversify the teacher workforce and provide supports to teachers from diverse backgrounds in schools. The guests for this episode are Colorado State Representative Jennifer Bacon; Janet Damon, a teacher at Delta High School, in Denver, Colorado; and Steven Malick, a senior researcher at Mathematica. Colorado State Representative Jennifer Bacon is Assistant Majority Leader and represents House District 7, which includes the Denver International Airport and Denver’s far northeast neighborhoods. Representative Bacon serves as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the House Education Committee. Representative Bacon is also the Chair of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado. Janet Rene Damon, Ed.S has spent 24 years as a high school teacher, digital librarian, and literacy engagement activist. She is co-founder of Afros and Books, a citywide literacy and nature engagement that offers culturally sustaining programming and book clubs for families in Denver. Janet was awarded the Inaugural Making our Futures Brighter Award from the Black Family Advisory Council in 2022, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award in 2022, and the Library Journal Mover and Shaker Award in 2020. Steven Malick of Mathematica focuses on bridging the gap between research and practice in the K–12 education system. He specializes in working with districts, states, and other organizations to understand and apply evidence in service of improving educator effectiveness and student achievement. His work has helped clients increase the diversity of the teacher workforce, develop social-emotional competencies in children, and accelerate implementation of research-based strategies. A full transcript of this episode is available here: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/how-colorado-committed-to-supporting-teacher-diversity-and-why-it-matters-to-students Watch a webinar from REL Central at Mathematica on research and promising practices to support a diverse teacher workforce: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/rel/Products/Region/central/Resource/107037
104 | Michael Mann on Taking Action to Address the Climate Crisis
Sep 27 2023
104 | Michael Mann on Taking Action to Address the Climate Crisis
For anyone looking to understand Earth’s climate history and the unfolding climate crisis, Michael Mann has got you covered. Mann is the Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media. He has authored numerous books, including The New Climate War and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. He was selected by Scientific American as one of the fifty leading visionaries in science and technology in 2002 and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2020. “Climate doomism” – the idea that it’s too late to act on the climate crisis – is a common refrain that promotes inaction. But in his new book, Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis, Mann argues that we can avoid catastrophe if we take meaningful action to address the crisis. On this episode, Mike Burns, Mathematica senior director of communications and public affairs, speaks with Mann about his new book and preserving “our fragile moment.” Topics addressed include: • Lessons that can–and cannot–be drawn from Earth’s climate history • Why seemingly insignificant temperature changes aren’t so insignificant • The concepts of urgency and agency, and obstacles to climate action • “Shifting baseline syndrome” – the gradual change in expected norms for environmental conditions • Weighing the paleoclimate record with other sources of information about the climate system • Effective communication and messaging strategies around climate science and climate change A full transcript of this episode is available here: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/climate-scientist-michael-mann-on-preserving-our-fragile-moment Learn more about Mann’s new book, Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/michael-e-mann/our-fragile-moment/9781541702899/?lens=publicaffairs Read Mann’s full bio: https://michaelmann.net/content/about
103 | OMB Evidence Team on Evidence-Based Policymaking and Federal Evaluation
Sep 19 2023
103 | OMB Evidence Team on Evidence-Based Policymaking and Federal Evaluation
From helping lead implementation of the Evidence Act to providing technical assistance on activities and initiatives, the Evidence Team at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is on the frontlines of evidence building and use across the federal government. Led by Diana Epstein (Team Lead), Erica Zielewski (Senior Evidence Analyst), Danielle Berman (Senior Evidence Analyst), and Erika Liliedahl (Senior Evidence Analyst), the OMB Evidence Team spends their days doing “anything and everything to help make sure that government uses the best possible evidence to make decisions.” On this episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast—I speak with Diana, Erica, and Danielle to better understand Evidence Act implementation and federal evaluation, and the role the Evidence Team plays in efforts to improve government-wide effectiveness. Among several topics, the episode covers: • Successes and challenges of the Evidence Act • Evidence Act Title I and OMB’s Evidence Act implementing guidance • The Evidence Team’s role in interagency collaboration • The ongoing culture change around evidence-based decision-making • The Evaluation Officer Council A full transcript of this episode is available here: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/the-omb-evidence-team-on-evidence-based-policymaking-and-federal-evaluation Learn more about the OMB Evidence Team: https://www.evaluation.gov/about/ Read a fact sheet from the Bipartisan Policy Center on the Evidence Act: https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/fact-sheet-foundations-for-evidence-based-policymaking-act/ Read OMB’s Evidence Act implementing guidance: https://www.evaluation.gov/2021-09-27-OMB-M-21-27-guidance/ Learn more about the Evaluation Office Council: https://www.evaluation.gov/about-evaluation-officers/
102 | Gayle Smith on the Federal Role in Global Response to Health and Climate Crises
Aug 30 2023
102 | Gayle Smith on the Federal Role in Global Response to Health and Climate Crises
Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign, served in many leadership roles in the federal government as a staunch advocate for evidence-based decision making. As Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security at the U.S. Department of State in 2021, Smith led the U.S. effort to end the global pandemic, helping the Biden-Harris Administration map out a response, identify spikes, and target vulnerabilities through monitoring, testing, diagnostics, and other tools. As Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Obama Administration, Smith prioritized a culture of evaluation and learning, emphasizing the importance of focusing on outcomes rather than inputs and using data and evidence to make midcourse corrections on projects and programs. And, as a White House official who played a leading role in the U.S. response to Ebola, Smith saw firsthand the importance of leveraging data to track outbreaks, target treatments, invest resources, and move in real time to maximize impact. On this episode of Mathematica’s On the Evidence podcast—one in our occasional Evidence in Government series—Mike Burns, Mathematica senior director of communications and public affairs, spoke with Smith about a range of topics including evaluation at USAID, the U.S. response to Ebola, the intersection of development finance and climate change, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), bilateral and global agencies, and the COVID-19 global health crisis, including its economic impact on women. A full transcript of this episode is available here: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/gayle-smith-on-the-federal-role-in-global-response-to-health-and-climate-crises Read Smith’s remarks from the 2016 Brookings Institution event on the state of evaluation at USAID: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/20160330_usaid_evaluation_transcript.pdf Read the ONE Campaign’s statement on the appointment of Ajay Banga as president of the World Bank: https://www.one.org/us/press/banga-world-bank/ Read ONE’s statement on the 20th anniversary of the PEPFAR announcement: https://www.one.org/us/press/one-statement-on-20th-anniversary-of-pepfar-announcement/ Read Smith’s POLITICO interview with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/11/01/linda-thomas-greenfield-gayle-smith-interview-00014844
101 | Using Data to Advance Equitable Outcomes from Pre-K through the Workforce
Aug 16 2023
101 | Using Data to Advance Equitable Outcomes from Pre-K through the Workforce
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing inequities that changed how individuals engage with pre-K programs, schools, colleges, employers, and the world at large. Early evidence suggests the pandemic took a toll on student learning, educational attainment, employment, and physical and mental well-being, especially in communities of color and communities experiencing poverty. In recognition of the fact that better data infrastructure will be needed to shift the systems that currently produce inequitable outcomes, a growing number of states are working to modernize statewide longitudinal data systems to understand the experiences and outcomes of individuals seamlessly across pre-K, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems. This episode of On the Evidence focuses on efforts to advance equitable outcomes from cradle to career by making data more available and useful to state decision makers. The guests for this episode are Keith White of the Public Education Foundation Chattanooga, Naihobe Gonzalez of Mathematica, Sara Kerr of Results for America, and Ross Tilchin of Results for America. White is the director of research and effectiveness at the PEF Chattanooga, a non-profit that provides training, research, and resources to teachers, principals, and schools in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Gonzalez, a senior researcher at Mathematica, co-authored a recent report funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the Education-to-Workforce Indicator Framework, which establishes a common set of metrics and data equity principles for assessing and addressing disparities along the pre-K-to-workforce continuum. Kerr is the vice president of education policy implementation for Results for America, where she leads EdResearch for Action, an initiative that fosters a more nuanced and effective application of evidence-based strategies by improving the quality, availability, and use of evidence in education. Tilchin is on the solutions team at Results for America, where he directs the Economic Mobility Catalog, an online resource that helps local government leaders identify and implement evidence-based strategies, from early childhood education to workforce development, that can advance economic mobility in their communities. A full transcript of this episode is available here: https://www.mathematica.org/blogs/advancing-equitable-outcomes-from-pre-k-through-the-workforce-by-aligning-state-local-data-systems Explore the Education-to-Workforce Indicator Framework: https://www.educationtoworkforce.org/ Learn more about the Economic Mobility Catalog from Results for America: https://catalog.results4america.org/ Learn more about EdResearch for Action from Results for America and the Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://edresearchforaction.org/ Watch a webinar with Mathematica, Mirror Group, and the Data Quality Campaign about increasing collaboration and alignment across local, state, and national data systems to help address disparities along the pre-K-to-workforce continuum: https://www.mathematica.org/events/opportunity-for-all