In Praise of Small Miracles”

New York Times; December 12, 2014

Research by SEII’s Amanda Pallais is fea­tured in David Brooks’s arti­cle pro­mot­ing the use of behav­ioral eco­nom­ics in policy-making:


People are also guid­ed by deci­sion-mak­ing for­mats. The peo­ple who admin­is­ter the ACT col­lege admis­sions test used to allow stu­dents to send free score reports to three col­leges. Many peo­ple thus applied to three col­leges. But then the ACT folks changed the form so there were four lines where you could write down prospec­tive col­leges. That tiny change meant that many peo­ple applied to four col­leges instead of three. Some got into more pres­ti­gious schools they wouldn’t have oth­er­wise. This improved the expect­ed earn­ings of low-income stu­dents by about $10,000.”


Brooks con­cludes, “Behavioral eco­nom­ics poli­cies are beau­ti­ful because they are small and con­crete but pow­er­ful. They remind us that when poli­cies are root­ed in actu­al human behav­ior and spe­cif­ic day-to-day cir­cum­stances, even gov­ern­ments can pro­duce small miracles.”