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Proving ground: testing public policy ideas at the Urban Labs

Stashed in: America!, University of Chicago, Demographics

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One of the problems with social services is a remarkable lack of data about what works, what doesn't, and what can be scaled. The University of Chicago Urban Labs does hands-on research on the theory that "the US spends $200 billion per year on the criminal justice system and $500 billion on K-12 education... if you can show the government how to spend its $200 billion better, or its $500 billion better, that's how you start to have a really big impact."

I wish there were more groups studying policy like this. Here's a fascinating aha:

"The aha moment that Match had,” says Ludwig, “was to realize that teaching one or two kids is fundamentally different from teaching 25 or 30 kids. What you need to be able to do to be a good tutor is massively different from what you need to be a good classroom teacher.”

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