Thursday, October 13, 2016

An APPAM/MDRC Institutional Member Forum: The Future of Applying Behavioral Science to Social Policy

MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science (CABS) and APPAM are hosting a forum on December 13, 2016 which will explore the future of behavioral science research, practice, and policy. This event brings together distinguished experts from MDRC, academia, and the government to share their work and provide insight on next steps for research, practice, and policy.


Spotlight: Mathematica Policy Research


Considered an architect of social policy research, Mathematica Policy Research provides expert design and evaluation to guide decision-making that improves public well-being. For more than four decades, the employee-owned company has been at the forefront of assessing the effectiveness of policies and programs. Mathematica has conducted some of the most important studies in several key research areas, including: disability, early childhood, education, employment, family support, health care, international, and nutrition. With more than 950 employees and offices in Princeton, NJ, Ann Arbor, MI, Cambridge, MA, Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA, and Washington, DC, Mathematica is dedicated to improving public well-being by bringing the highest standards of quality, objectivity, and excellence to bear on information collection and analysis for partners and clients. Their staff are recognized national leaders in thorough and innovative program evaluation, objective policy research and interpretation, sophisticated survey design and data collection, comprehensive performance measurement and data management, measures development, technical assistance and methodological leadership.

Home to four specialized research centers, the Center for Studying Disability Policy, the Center for Improving Research Evidence, the Center on Health Care Effectiveness, and the Center for International Policy and Research Evaluation, Mathematica delivers high quality research and data for clients that stand up to the most demanding review and scrutiny. Their national experts are distinguished by a commitment to objective, evidence-based standards, superior data, and collaboration.

Mathematica works across the country and around the globe, serving federal agencies, state and local governments, foundations, universities, professional associations, and businesses. Its studies and analysis have yielded information to guide decisions in wide ranging policy areas, from health, education, early childhood, and family support, to nutrition, employment, disability, and international development. This work is frequently recognized for innovative methodology and significant results. For example, the congressionally mandated, comprehensive nine-year study of federal abstinence programs earned the 2009 Outstanding Evaluation Award from the American Evaluation Association (AEA) as well as widespread media attention. Mathematica's work on national pregnancy prevention programs and early childhood home visiting brought the 2010 Outstanding Contractor Award from the Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Recently, in 2011 and 2012, Mathematica researchers garnered APPAM’s Raymond Vernon Memorial Prize for articles on the impacts of abortion regulation in Texas and the multi-year Building Strong Families evaluation, respectively.

Mathematica also has a long history with APPAM. David Kershaw, Mathematica’s founder and first president, participated in the establishment of the association and guided Mathematica to be a founding institutional member. The center has been an institutional member ever since and jointly administer the Kershaw Award with APPAM and Princeton University.


Today, Mathematica’s capabilities and reach have grown to respond to new public policy challenges and information needs. Their work centers on four key areas:

Program Evaluation and Policy Research

Mathematica designs and executes both large-scale and small-scale studies answering complex questions and involving multiple program areas, research methods, and locations. Microsimulation and modeling estimate impacts of proposed policy changes to help policymakers make informed decisions. They are leaders in working with underserved populations and in recruiting sites, schools, organizations, and respondents.

Research Assessment and Interpretation

Mathematica also develops and applies standards for assessing the quality and soundness of existing research, enabling clients and practitioners to use research more effectively in policy decisions and practice. They conceptualize and develop new and innovative methods for answering clients’ questions about policy and program practices that work. Mathematica also provides technical assistance and tools to help users connect research with effective practice and make informed policy decisions.

Survey Design and Data Collection

Policymakers and program managers rely on Mathematica for objective and reliable data. They  bring their breadth of experience in design through data collection and analysis to solve clients’ most difficult challenges and provide them with the high quality data needed to establish policies and make well-informed decisions. Mathematica offers nationally recognized experts who can tailor data collection instruments and strategies to fit each client’s information needs and resources. Mathematica's Survey Operations Center has 400 employees dedicated to data collection and access to more than 4,000 additional field interviewers. In addition, the company uses advanced technology supporting digital and offsite monitoring, rapid expansion of survey capacity, and protocols that ensure the safe and reliable electronic transfer of data from the field to preserve security and confidentiality.

Program Performance and Data Management

Mathematica offers comprehensive program performance analysis, program management, and administrative data services. The company integrates many years of experience in disability, early childhood, education, family support, health, labor, and nutrition programs with technical expertise to meet client needs. Mathematica enhances public agencies’ ability to measure performance, manage programs, and use administrative data for program monitoring and decision making.

To learn more about Mathematica, visit You can also follow them on Twitter and find them on Facebook.

Amy Berridge contributed this profile.


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