James Sullivan to testify before Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

by Rachel Fulcher-Dawson

James Sullivan

James Sullivan, co-founder of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) and Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Notre Dame, will testify Friday (Nov. 4) before the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking in Washington, D.C.

Sullivan will present recommendations developed by LEO regarding non-governmental demand for evaluation. His testimony is based on LEO’s work with nonprofit social service agencies across the country that work to improve anti-poverty solutions via evidence-based research.

Private social service providers spend $200 billion annually on programs for vulnerable populations. Many innovative providers and programs are working to design new programs to address the needs of poor families. Sullivan says, “To promote evidence-based policymaking in government, we need to do more than evaluate government programs. To design better programs in Washington, we need to know what works outside of Washington.”

Sullivan will address the challenges agencies encounter when trying to be data-driven and to use evidence to improve programming. LEO works with agencies to use data they collect and to connect it to existing administrative data to measure impact and improve programming. He says, “Unfortunately, all too often, even the most promising local programs are not evaluated, in large part because the nongovernmental agencies that run them do not have access to the data necessary to measure impact.”

Administrative data is collected regularly by most government programs and includes important impact outcomes such as earnings records, government program participation, arrest records and education records. Being able to measure the impact of a given program on these outcomes shifts agency work from counting the number of people served to demonstrating how people are better off because of a given program. Sullivan will encourage the commission to include his recommendations about the needs of private social service providers in its final report.

The event will be webcast live beginning at 10:10 a.m. EDT and is available through host Brookings Institution’s website.

The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) is a research lab housed in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. LEO matches top researchers with social service providers to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective and scalable programs and policies that support self-sufficiency. LEO’s research is conducted by Notre Dame faculty as well as an interdisciplinary network of scholars from across the country with expertise in designing and evaluating the impact of domestic programs aimed at reducing poverty and improving lives. LEO disseminates its key findings to policymakers and front-line providers in order to support evidence-based policy and programming decisions that effectively and jointly reduce poverty in the United States. Learn more at leo.nd.edu.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was established by the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016. The act recognizes that better use of existing data may improve how government programs operate. The mission of the commission is to develop a strategy for increasing the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality. Through the course of the commission’s work, members will study how data, research and evaluation are currently used to build evidence, and how to strengthen the government’s evidence-building efforts. Learn more at www.cep.gov.

Contact: James Sullivan, 574-631-7587, jsulliv4@nd.edu