CHARLES F. MANSKI has been Board of Trustees Professor in Economics at Northwestern University since 1997. He previously was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Madison (1983 98), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1979 83), and Carnegie Mellon University (1973 80). He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in economics from M. I. T. in 1970 and 1973. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’ (2006) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2018). Manski=s research spans econometrics, judgment and decision, and analysis of public policy. He is author of Public Policy in an Uncertain World (Harvard 2013), Identification for Prediction and Decision (Harvard 2007), Social Choice with Partial Knowledge of Treatment Response (Princeton 2005), Partial Identification of Probability Distributions (Springer, 2003), Identification Problems in the Social Sciences (Harvard 1995), and Analog Estimation Methods in Econometrics (Chapman & Hall, 1988), co author of College Choice in America (Harvard 1983), and co editor of Evaluating Welfare and Training Programs (Harvard 1992) and Structural Analysis of Discrete Data with Econometric Applications (MIT 1981). He has served as Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (1988 91), Chair of the Board of Overseers of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1994 98), and Chair of the National Research Council Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs (1998 2001). Editorial service includes terms as editor of the Journal of Human Resources (1991 94), co editor of the Econometric Society Monograph Series (1983 88), member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review of Economics (2007-13), member of the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (2010-18), and associate editor of the Annals of Applied Statistics (2006 10), Econometrica, (1980 88), Journal of Economic Perspectives (1986 89), Journal of the American Statistical Association (1983 85, 2002 04), and Transportation Science (1978 84). Manski is an elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the American Statistical Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.
Public Policy in an Uncertain World: Analysis and Decisions, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Public policy advocates routinely assert that “research has shown” a particular policy to be desirable. But how reliable is the analysis in the research they invoke? And how does that analysis affect the way policy is made, on issues ranging from vaccination to minimum wage to FDA drug approval? Charles F. Manski argues here that current policy is based on untrustworthy analysis. By failing to account for uncertainty in an unpredictable world, policy analysis misleads policy makers with expressions of certitude. Public Policy in an Uncertain World critiques the status quo and offers an innovation to improve how policy research is conducted and how policy makers use research.
Consumers of policy analysis, whether civil servants, journalists, or concerned citizens, need to understand research methodology well enough to properly assess reported findings. In the current model, policy researchers base their predictions on strong assumptions. But as Manski demonstrates, strong assumptions lead to less credible predictions than weaker ones. His alternative approach takes account of uncertainty and thereby moves policy analysis away from incredible certitude and toward honest portrayal of partial knowledge. Manski describes analysis of research on such topics as the effect of the death penalty on homicide, of unemployment insurance on job-seeking, and of preschooling on high school graduation. And he uses other real-world scenarios to illustrate the course he recommends, in which policy makers form reasonable decisions based on partial knowledge of outcomes, and journalists evaluate research claims more closely, with a skeptical eye toward expressions of certitude.