January 2012

Independent research & practical ideas for global prosperity 

Evaluation Gap Update 
January 2012

A critical mass of good work on microfinance is coming together to provide an understanding of what such programs can and cannot do. Also, recent news suggests that evidence can make a difference to policy decisions even in the charged atmosphere of Washington, DC. But getting good evidence will be easier if data collection is done right and analysis is open and transparent – as discussed in articles on public health survey methods … and baseball.


William D. Savedoff
Senior Fellow
Center for Global Development

This is how knowledge is built

In Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance, David Roodman shows exactly why we need rigorous impact evaluations – to support this kind of well-reasoned, open and thorough analysis of important questions about development programs. The book culminates a research process that included replication of a seminar paper by Pitt and Khandker and open discussions with readers about his draft chapters. Roodman finds no evidence to support claims that small loans significantly reduce poverty but argues that financial services are an essential part of modern life. “The practical question is not whether microfinance should continue, but how it can play to its strengths, which lie in providing useful services to millions of poor people in a businesslike way.”

Do politicians ever care about evidence?

Recent events in the highly politicized budget debates of Washington, DC give hope that evidence can make a difference in difficult circumstances. Initially, the U.S. House cut funds for six federal initiatives that had been rigorously evaluated and shown to be highly cost-effective, as highlighted by The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. Arguments that both parties should be interested in funding proven programs in times of austerity, articulated in a Brookings Institution essay and a New York Times article, helped convince Congress to reverse the initial cuts. In December, congressional and administration officials approved a slight increase in aggregate funding for these programs instead. Image: Senator Chris Dodd

Good data in, good analysis possible!

Public Opinion Quarterly published selected readings from 1990-2010 on survey methodologies, addressing such issues as non-response bias, the impact of data collection modes on answers to sensitive questions, and inconsistencies in self-reported behaviors. The articles not only provide insights into good survey design but also serve as a reminder that good implementation of surveys is critical to getting the data that can support good analysis. Image: Flickr user/ marc_levy_marc_levy