Data-Driven Decision Making

No matter what language we speak or where we live, we all face many of the same societal issues…issues that impact a community’s (or an entire country’s) ability to prosper and offer its people a quality standard of life. Over the years, governments have spawned numerous programs and interventions to improve the living conditions of their most vulnerable citizens. But the critical question is how to determine which are the most effective at positively impacting and changing lives?

Abt Associates is recognized worldwide for its pioneering methodologies and rigorous evaluation tools to ensure clients in the U.S. and around the world have the information necessary to not only implement but also assess social programs and policies.

The lessons learned from our 50-year portfolio of research and evaluation have taken the field of public policy research in new directions and are ensuring that resources for social programs in the U.S. and around the world are spent effectively and wisely.


UNITED STATES: Does offering homeless families vouchers create housing stability?


Historically, there are very few resources available to homeless persons, making it imperative that services and interventions provide maximum return on investment. To evaluate the types of housing and services interventions currently available, Abt Associates is conducting a randomized controlled trial to compare the effects of four distinct interventions. Eighteen months after randomly assigning 2,300 families to one of four options—permanent housing subsidy, project-based transitional housing, short-term rental assistance, or usual care assistance—Abt conducted interviews with 81 percent of the sample. The study team is analyzing the results of the survey to estimate impacts on housing stability; self-sufficiency; adult well-being; child well-being; and family preservation. Study results will be available in 2015.
CLIENT: HUD / PROJECT: The Family Options Study


AUSTRALIA: Will improving the health of Indigenous mothers impact the future of their children?

Although comparable programs have been conducted in other parts of the world, the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program (ANFPP) marks the first time Australia has undertaken a sustained program focused on improving maternal health and early childhood development among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To ensure reliable answers to questions such as how behavior change happens and what are the best practices for building life skills, as well as guarantee the validity of long-term outcomes, Abt JTA was charged with training, as well as monitoring and evaluating the program. Now, in the project’s fifth year, Abt JTA analyzes 1,000 data points for every participant, every three to six months, and ensures practitioners working under different lead organizations all adhere to the same program parameters.
CLIENT: Australian Government / PROJECT: The Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program (ANFPP)


BOTSWANA: How can a developing country accurately predict the cost and benefits of Universal Health Coverage?

Despite a well-developed medical aid—or insurance—industry, only 17 percent of Botswana has medical aid coverage. As a next step in moving towards Universal Health Coverage, the government of Botswana is exploring options for increasing the number of public sector employees enrolled in private health insurance. Through multiple complex analytical exercises, including fiscal modeling and a nationally representative survey, Abt Associates is working to gather and analyze information on the costs and benefits of expanding medical aid coverage to all government employees. Abt’s findings will provide the Government of Botswana with the evidence necessary to shape the design of new policies and insurance products, correctly estimate costs, and ultimately implement its vision for universal health coverage.
CLIENT: USAID / PROJECT: Strengthening Health Outcomes Through the Private Sector project (SHOPS)


UNITED STATES: What impact has the Family and Medical Leave Act had on employees and employers?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted in 1993, provides U.S. employees with a number of rights including reasonable unpaid family and temporary medical leave, health insurance coverage, and reinstatement to a previous job under certain circumstances. Yet, despite millions of workers taking temporary leave under FMLA, there’s been no information on the impact it’s had on employees or employers. To fill this gap, Abt Associates designed and fielded nationally representative surveys with 2,800 employees and 1,800 employers. Among the survey’s findings were that employees actively use the benefits established by the Act, and most employers report that complying with the FMLA imposes minimal burden on their operations. All the findings will support the Department of Labor in shaping future regulatory options.
CLIENT: U.S. Department of Labor / PROJECT: The FMLA Study


UNITED STATES: Can we increase students’ proficiency in math and science by focusing on the teachers?

In an effort to reverse a decline in students pursuing careers in math and science, the Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) Program provides state grants to expand educators’ STEM knowledge and teaching skills. In addition to providing analytical and technical support, Abt Associates was chosen to compile and evaluate annual program metrics. During the 2010–2011 school year, Abt found that MSP support translated into professional development for 43,000 educators in mathematics and science who, in turn, reached more than 2.4 million students. Of participating teachers, 61 percent showed gains in their mathematics knowledge, and 69 percent had improvement in science, expected to result in their respective students performing better on state proficiency assessments.
CLIENT: Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) Program / PROJECT: The MSP Study

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Driving Social Impact with Technology and Data
Abt Associates’ Data Science, Surveys, and Enabling Technologies practice has deep experience in developing and capturing high-quality data via complex surveys, administrative data, social media and sensor information, and the ability to normalize, analyze, and transform data into actionable insights
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EVIRATERâ„¢  is a system for rating the strength of evidence that is applied to the full range of designs that might be used to evaluate programs. It expands on current rating systems that are used to review more rigorous research designs such as randomized controlled trials and high quality quasi-experimental studies. 
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Social Policy Impact Pathfinder The Social Policy Impact Pathfinder (SPI-Path) is a suite of tools that offers clients the opportunity to learn more from the experimental impact evaluations in which they invest, to address not just overall effectiveness but key question of “what works?"
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