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  • 20th Jun 2019

Creating opportunities for economic mobility in US cities

Integrating behavioural science into the heart of social programs

For the last three years, BIT has been working with cities across the US to explore how behavioral science and rigorous evaluations can support the needs of city halls and the residents they serve. Thanks to the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’ve worked with 40+ cities and completed over 70 randomized controlled trials testing ideas informed by behavioral science.

We’ve been blown away by our city partners. They have worked hand-in-hand with us to identify challenges amenable to a behavioral insights approach, develop interventions that respond to the real-life barriers their residents face, and implement high-quality evaluation methods to learn what works. Even more impressive, they’ve continued this work after our partnerships ended. They have scaled effective practices, and continued to run trials and develop their evaluation capabilities.

While these successes are well worth celebrating, we’ve been increasingly focused on how to bring behavioral science into the heart of policies and programs delivered by local governments and their community-based partners.

Ten American cities will be working with us in a new national initiative

On Tuesday, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group announced how we will be doing this over the coming years. Ten American cities will be working with us in a new national initiative to identify, pilot, and measure the success of interventions to accelerate economic mobility for their residents.

Economic mobility is a policy priority that cuts across political boundaries and is at the heart of the “American Dream”. We will be drawing on the latest research from Prof Raj Chetty through our partnership with Opportunity Insights to ensure that our work is cutting-edge and evidence-based.   

Rather than discrete nudges, these interventions will focus primarily on infusing behavioral insights into the design and integration of social programs related to employment, financial empowerment, and education. For example:

  • Newark, New Jersey will focus on reducing eviction rates, amid rising housing costs, to help ensure that long-term residents share in the benefits of local economic growth.
  • Rochester, New York will develop a matched savings program for income-eligible families to help them weather financial shocks, build wealth, and create economic stability.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma will help youth who are not currently in work or school get the education and training they need for high-quality jobs in the community.

Improving economic mobility is a long-term challenge, but we will be creating a set of outcome measures that we hope will show movement in just a couple of years. We will report back here with news of how the cities have made progress on this crucial policy issue.


Want more details on this initiative?