Research, Monitoring & Evaluation

Experimental Evaluations

Throughout its 50-year history, Abt Associates has produced groundbreaking, high-profile studies based on experimental evaluations. These include the Housing Allowance Demand Experiment, an experimental evaluation Abt conducted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This study became the foundation for the nation’s predominant safety-net housing program for the next 30 years.

Abt continues to be a leader in this research method, helping shape U.S. programs and policies that improve the economic and social well-being of children, youth, families, and workers.

An experimental evaluation is the most rigorous, impartial method for assessing the impact of a program or policy. It enables researchers to determine the causal effects of policy interventions and establish whether one intervention is more effective than the status quo or than another intervention.

Random assignment is the core procedure in experimental evaluations. By creating two statistically equivalent groups, a group exposed to an intervention and a control group not exposed to the intervention, random assignment allows researchers to estimate what would have happened in the absence of the intervention. In other words, random experimental evaluation can determine if outcomes for the treatment group represent an improvement over the status quo.


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

Historically, there are very few resources available to people experiencing homelessness, 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 are expected in 2015.

CLIENT: HUD / PROJECT: The Family Options Study


NIGERIA: Do results-based incentives or “pull” mechanisms lead small-scale farmers to adopt needed agricultural technology?

In Nigeria, the AgResults program hopes to increase adoption of Aflasafe, a biotechnology that combats a naturally occurring, poisonous fungus that contaminates maize. Despite the proven efficacy of Aflasafe, small-scale farmers have not adopted it, possibly because of a lack of awareness about it, credit constraints, or poor distribution networks. Abt Associates is conducting a randomized controlled trial to assess the impact of giving incentives to maize aggregators based on the total quantity of Aflasafe-treated maize they procure from small-scale farmers. In addition to testing the incentive, surveys conducted by the study team will help determine the key causes of failure to adopt Aflasafe. The baseline survey is currently under way. Study results will be available in 2018.

CLIENT: Department for International Development (UK) / PROJECT: AgResults Evaluation

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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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