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About Policy Impacts

Over the past 50 years, researchers have made great strides in analyzing public policy. With better data and improved research methods, we know more than ever about the impacts of government spending.

But despite these advances, it remains surprisingly challenging to answer basic questions about which policies have been most effective.

The difficulty arises because methods for evaluating policy effectiveness are not standardized. This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to compare and contrast across different policies.

Within the social sciences, methods of analysis vary widely from topic to topic.

College scholarships are most often judged based on their cost per enrolled student, whereas pre-school spending is analyzed using cost-benefit analysis. Tax policy changes are often evaluated using technical metrics such as the marginal excess burden.

These varying approaches make it difficult to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons across policies. Decision-makers are unable to fully utilize the powerful research currently available to inform policymaking and public investments.

With that problem in mind, we formed Policy Impacts.

Policy Impacts seeks to promote a unified approach for policy evaluation. We seek to promote the Marginal Value of Public Funds, a standardized metric for policy evaluation. We have created the Policy Impacts library, a collaborative effort to track the returns to a wide range of government policies.

Our Team

  • Nathaniel Hendren


    Nathaniel Hendren is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University and Co-Director of Policy Impacts.

  • Ben Sprung-Keyser


    Ben Sprung-Keyser is a Ph.D. student in Economics at Harvard University and Co-Director of Policy Impacts.

  • David Williams

    Director of Policy Outreach

    David A. Williams serves as the Director of Policy Outreach at Policy Impacts and as Director of Policy Outreach at Opportunity Insights.

  • Ellen Stuart

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    Ellen Stuart is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Economics Department at Harvard University and at Policy Impacts.

Get in Touch


Data / technical assistance:
[email protected]

Media and Interview Requests:
Nathan Hendren —
[email protected]

If you would like to contact one of our researchers:
[email protected]


Harvard University
1280 Massachusetts Avenue
Box #201
MA 02138

Are you a Researcher or Academic?

Building the Policy Impacts Library is a collaborative effort.
We are always adding new research to the library and encourage researchers to submit their work.

If you want to learn more about how the MVPF might apply to your work, please get in touch.