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Executive Summary:

Causal Determination for Social Policy: Counterfactuals, Natural Experiments, Population Shifts

Henry Potrykus
February 7, 2013

This paper shows how the causal effects of policy are determined in the public policy arena.

By comparing otherwise similar groups, and proving that the only change one of the groups experienced was due to a policy change, one may determine the effect of that policy (Chart 1, explained below). One says, counterfactually, had the policy change not occurred the effect would not take place. For instance, what if all the policies supporting the sexual revolution of the 1960s on had instead been configured to work against it?

Go now to the final section, “Randomized Assignment: Clinical Trials, Example,” page 7, for an intuitive example on how each of these ‘groups’ and the ‘policy change’ interrelate.