On the 28th April HÉTFA Research Institute and Széchenyi István College for Advanced Studies held a conference about the experiences of impact assessments in social sciences.
The conference was inspired by the book Poor Economics (Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (2011)). The lectures presented how incentives and institutions can influence the effectiveness of social policies.
The conference was opened by Károly Czibere, State Minister for Social Affairs and Inclusion of the Ministry of Human Resources. He emphasized that the understanding and effective management of poverty is based on the feedback from researchers and analysts. There is a great need for methodologies that are able to judge whether a given intervention is effective or not and for tools that assist decision-makers to measure the effectiveness of programs. Thus, research results are indispensable to prepare appropriate measures.
Dániel Zrínyi, director of the Széchenyi István College for Advanced Studies emphasized the importance to improve the methodological knowledge for policy analyses. He also drew attention to the role of colleges for advanced studies, which are important professional institutions of Hungary in several fields.
After the opening session, Gábor Kézdi, associate professor at the Central European University and senior research fellow at the Institute of Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences gave a plenary lecture. He pointed out that social policy intervenes in people’s lives at multiple levels – usually with good intentions. However, it is always important to ask if these measures achieve their purpose and what what side effects they have . It is the task of impact assessments to answer these questions. Based on the presented domestic and foreign research and impact studies, he drew attention to three main lessons. On the one hand, it is is difficult to conducting impact assessments . On the other hand, it is complicated to measure the impact of interventions, since numerous factors need to be considered (expertise, money, time constraint, planning). Thirdly, it is essential to publish and discuss the results.
Antonio Silva, Senior Advisor of The Behavioural Insights Team presented the second plenary lecture. Silva addressed the issue of poverty and decision-making. The London-based research institute’s work focuses on the application of behavioral sciences, and aims to make public measures more effective. In order to improve the soundness of decision-making, the institute focus on understanding the causes behind human decisions. Silva sought answers to two main questions: how does poverty influence the process and result of decisions and how can behavioral science support policy-makers in order to fight more efficiently against poverty?
The program continued with two parallel sessions. One of them involved the methodological questions of impact assessments. Anna Adamecz-Völgyi, leading researcher at Budapest Institute, presented on the impact of raising the compulsory school attending age on the fertility of Roma women. Ágnes Keresztény, assistant professor at ELTE Faculty of Education and Psychology gave a lecture on the RCT based impact assessment of school suicide prevention programs.
The other section discussed the role of institutions and incentives in the effectiveness of social convergence programs. In his lecture, György Molnár, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Economic and Regional Studies of Hungarian Academy of Sciences, asked the question whether microcredit could temper poverty and if so, how. Márton Medgyesi, senior research fellow at the Centre for Social Sciences of Hungarian Academy of Sciences and senior researcher of TÁRKI gave a presentation titled “The efficiency of conditional cash transfers (CCT) in the developed OECD countries”. Bálint Herczeg, senior research fellow at HÉTFA Research Institute, presented the impact assessment of “Sure Start” Programme, which focuses on the operating conditions, professional relationships and expected results of the activity of children’s homes established under the program.