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Measuring Impact: Recent Advances in Program Evaluation

May 23, 2013
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in partnership with Southern Methodist University

Researchers from the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies at Southern Methodist University provided an intuitive introduction to statistical issues associated with evaluating the causal effects of policies or public programs. The workshop shared numerous case studies that illustrate practical examples of evaluating and forecasting for government policymakers, private enterprises, nonprofit and other community organizations.

Agenda

9:00 a.m.

Welcome
Alfreda B. Norman
VideoFlash video
Vice President and Community Development Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

9:10 a.m.

Conceptual Issues in Program and Policy EvaluationPDF
VideoFlash video
Daniel L. Millimet
Professor of Economics
Southern Methodist University
Many of the fundamental conceptual issues that underlie the statistical evaluation of programs and policies will be discussed. Topics will include the distinction between causation and correlation, the benefits and limitations of different types of data and common data problems that arise, and proper interpretation of statistical analyses. Case studies will be used to illustrate the concepts.

9:50 a.m.

Panel on Empirical Methods of Program and Policy Evaluation
Moderator
Wenhua Di
Senior Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

 

Designing Randomized ExperimentsPDF
VideoFlash video
Timothy Salmon and Danila Serra
Professors of Economics
Southern Methodist University
This session will look at how economic experiments can be used to evaluate policies in a way that allows for clearer understanding of the causal relationships between policy details and their effects. The discussion will cover the advantages and limitations of using experiments for this purpose as well as the operational and logistic concerns for conducting them. Prior examples of experiments will be discussed to demonstrate key points.

 

Working With Observational DataPDF
Daniel L. Millimet
VideoFlash video
Professor of Economics
Southern Methodist University
This session will include a brief introduction to some of the more commonly used statistical methods for analyzing observational data to evaluate the causal effects of programs and policies. The discussion will focus on the intuition underlying the various approaches, as well as emphasize situations when particular approaches are likely to be useful.

 

Data Mining and Big DataPowerpoint
VideoFlash video
Thomas B. Fomby
Professor of Economics
Director of the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies
Southern Methodist University
Many firms, nonprofit organizations and government agencies now collect thousands of observations on hundreds of variables on a daily basis. Given the power of computers and the sophistication of software, organizations are now better able to make use of this mountain of information. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the techniques employed to navigate so-called big data, as well as review the current technology that is available.

 

Q&A

11:30 a.m.

Adjourn

About the Speakers

Wenhua Di
Di is a senior economist in the Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Her current research interests include housing economics, program evaluation and consumer finances. Before she joined the Dallas Fed, Di was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has also consulted with the World Bank. She holds a PhD in public policy with a concentration in environmental economics from Harvard University and an MS and a BS in environmental sciences from Peking University.

Thomas B. Fomby
Fomby has been a professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University since 1975. He currently is the director of the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies at SMU. He has served as a senior coeditor of Advances in Econometrics since 1986. Fomby has been a research associate with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas since 1983. He has consulted with the World Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and various corporations, including Mary Kay Inc., Texas Instruments, KPMG, Zale Corp. and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. Fomby received a BA in mathematics from Hendrix College in 1969 and a PhD in economics from the University of Missouri in 1975.

Daniel L. Millimet
Millimet has been a professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University since 1999. He is a senior coeditor of Advances in Econometrics and a member of the editorial boards of Empirical Economics and the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Millimet has held the position of research associate with the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, Germany, since 2008. His research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Hunger Center of the North Texas Food Bank, among others. Millimet received a BA in economics from the University of Michigan in 1994 and a PhD in economics from Brown University in 1999.

Timothy Salmon
Salmon has been a professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University since 2011. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology and a professor in the Department of Economics at Florida State University. He has served as a coeditor of Economic Inquiry since 2011 and is a member of the editorial boards of Experimental Economics and the Journal of Socio-Economics. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation. Salmon received a BA in economics from the University of Texas in 1994 and a PhD in economics from Johns Hopkins University in 1999.

Danila Serra
Serra has been a professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University since 2012. Previously, she was an economics professor at Florida State University. Serra has held the position of research associate at the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford since 2012. She has also consulted with the World Bank. Serra received a BSc in economics and social sciences from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, in 2001 and a PhD in economics from the University of Oxford in 2009.

Contact Information

For questions, please contact Malinkca Johnson at malinkca.johnson@dal.frb.org or by phone at 214-922-5377.


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