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Scope Challenges to Social Impact (WP-21-03)

Monica Bhatt, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, and Anuj Shah

Over the past 50 years, social science has increasingly become involved in the business of not just understanding social problems, but of helping solve them as well. Progress towards this goal will benefit not just from the growing work on solving the challenge of scale, by which we mean the capacity to effectively reach large numbers of people, but also from more attention to the less-appreciated challenge of scope, by which we mean the capacity to change a large share of the decisions that affect a given person’s outcomes. In this essay, the authors provide a simple framework to help think about the scope of candidate policies, and highlight some common situations that are often associated with potential for large scope.

Monica Bhatt, Senior Research Director, Crime Lab and Education Lab, University of Chicago

Jonathan Guryan, Lawyer Taylor Professor of Education and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Jens Ludwig, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Anuj Shah, Associate Professor of Behavioral Science, University of Chicago

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