Applying Behavioral Science to Development: Some Considerations: An IDSS Discussion

Agricultural extension meeting in Nepal, 2002, photo by APB-CMX/public domain, with decision-tree graphic overlay

Agricultural extension meeting in Nepal, 2002

Photo by APB-CMX/public domain, with decision-tree graphic overlay


Saugato Datta
Managing Director, ideas42


Monday, November 23, 2015


Noon–1:00 p.m. PT


RAND Corporation
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA

About the Program

Ideas42 uses insights from decades of experimental scientific research at the intersection of psychology and economics to design scalable ways improve programs, policies and products in the real world. Whether it’s increasing savings rates in the Philippines, preventing students dropping out of college in California, educating teenagers about the risk of HIV in South Africa, or saving water in Costa Rica, ideas42 is at the cutting edge of applied behavioral science.

During this talk, Saugato Datta will expand on the argument in his paper Behavioral Design: A New Approach to Development Policy in light of several recent research projects that attempt to apply behavioral science to a variety of problems in developing countries. He will present diagnostic and design insights, as well as results where available from behavioral design projects related to: risky behaviors of various kinds, the uptake and continued use of modern family planning methods, intimate partner violence, water consumption, and issues around agriculture and agricultural finance. Through these examples, he will attempt to draw out some principles for applying behavioral insights to complex problems in development.

About the Speaker

Saugato Datta is a managing director at ideas42. He works with partners to design, test and scale programs and products that use behavioral economics to benefit poor people in developing countries. He is also helping ideas42 think about its strategy for impact in the developing world, and writes extensively on the application of behavioral economics to development programs and more generally.

Before joining ideas42, he spent three years writing about economics at The Economist in London. His beat included behavioral and development economics, international trade, academic research, and the international financial institutions. He also edited the third edition of Economics: Making Sense of the Modern Economy, a selection of Economist articles. Prior to this, he was a researcher at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. He has published papers on discrimination in Indian labor markets and the effects of infrastructure development in developing countries. Datta has a Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and undergraduate and master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Delhi.

Learn more about the International Development Speaker Series