Educating a Better World

Shine Dome

Together with the John Mitchell Economics of Poverty Lab and the University
of Chicago, RSE led a workshop on policy making, focusing on child development and education. The day included presentations about the impacts on human wellbeing and capital formation of using science and evidence to inform policy around childhood education, a panel discussion around the mechanisms of translating research into policy, and methodological commentary. An article about the workshop is available here.

Morning session – Using economics to change the world: Skill formation over the life cycle

This session included two presentations to showcase how John Mitchell Economics of Poverty Lab Affiliated Scholars have combined economic theory and experiments to examine what drives skill formation over the life cycle and test new strategies/policies to enhance skill formation at various phases of the life cycle.

Lunchtime panel – What do policymakers need and what do researchers provide?

A mix of panellists from government (ACT or Federal level) discussed the types of research they use when formulating policies, how they use research, and any suggestions for how academics can/should structure their work to enhance its impact on policy. The panel also included academics who discussed how they select what types of policy questions to examine, how they structure the work, and challenges/trade-offs faced that may limit the impact of (or willingness to engage in) policy driven work.

Afternoon session – Using behavioural insights and experimental methods for policy-making

This session focused on methodological issues surrounding the design and interpretation of experimental (quasi-experimental) research in the policy domain. Specifically, the session tackled questions such as the design and use of survey experiments to understand what determines support (or lack thereof) for government policies, eliciting beliefs about the effectiveness or potential impact of government policies, scalability of research findings and generalizability of findings from one domain or setting to another.


This event began from 8:30am on Friday 6 October at the Shine Dome (15 Gordon Street, Acton).

For more information, view the Workshop program.

All-day refreshments were provided.

Educating a Better World:

Economic and behavioural insights for policymakers

Friday 6 October 2023





Welcome to Country


Aunty Mary Atkinson

Welcome to Country



Professor Sally Wheeler (ANU)

Opening address

Using economics

to change the world: Skill formation over the life cycle


Dr Dana Suskind (U Chicago)

The potential of smart technology to inform, measure, and enhance early childhood development


Professor John List (U Chicago and ANU)

Can early childhood education shield us from negative shocks? The case of COVID

Morning tea




Research and policy panel


Professor Bob Slonim (UTS)

Professor Emily Lancsar (ANU)

Professor Bob Breunig (ANU)

Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP

Michael Brennan (e61 Institute)

Chair: Professor John List (U Chicago and ANU)

What do policymakers need and what do researchers provide?





Using behavioural insights and experimental methods for policy-making


Professor Marco Castillo (Texas A&M University and Melbourne Institute)

Professor Ragan Petrie (Texas A&M University and Melbourne Institute)

Dr Silvia Griselda (e61 Institute)

Dr Dana Suskind (U Chicago)

Using administrative and experimental data to evaluate and inform education policy


Afternoon tea



Dr Angela Doku (U Chicago)

Harnessing survey data within natural experiments


Dr Andrew Simon (U Chicago)

Skills, majors and jobs: Does higher education respond?



Professor Rabee Tourky (ANU)

Closing address


Speaker Bios

Dr. Dana Suskind, University of Chicago

Dr. Dana Suskind is a Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics and Public Policy (affiliated) at the University of Chicago and Co-Director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health. An internationally recognized thought leader, Dr. Suskind has dedicated her research and clinical life to optimizing foundational brain development and preventing early cognitive disparities and their lifelong impact. In 2013, Dana and her team led the first-ever Bridging the Thirty Million Word Gap convening at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is the author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain and of the New York Times bestselling book, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child's Potential, Fulfilling Society's Promise, which empowers parents to use developmental neuroscience to build a society that works for families, not against them.

Prof. John A. List, University of Chicago

John A. List is the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago, Founder and Co-Director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, and the first Chief Economist at Walmart.

Recognized as a pioneer for his innovative use of field experiments to examine issues in micro- and macro-economics, List has published over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles and several books, including best-sellers, The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life (with Uri Gneezy) and The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale.

List was named a Top 50 Innovator in the Non-Profit Times for 2015 and 2016 for his work on charitable giving. He served in the White House on the Council of Economic Advisers from 2002-2003 and is presently a Research Associate at the NBER, a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor, and a University Fellow at Resources for the Future.

List received his B.S. in economics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Ph.D. in economics at the University of Wyoming. List joined the UChicago faculty in 2005, and served as Chairman of the Department of Economics from 2012-2018, and is the former Chief Economist of Uber and Lyft.

Hon. Dr. Andrew Leigh MP, Federal Member for Fenner

Andrew Leigh is the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, and Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT. Prior to being elected in 2010, Andrew was a professor of economics at the Australian National University.

He holds a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard, having graduated from the University of Sydney with first class honours in Arts and Law. Andrew is a past recipient of the Economic Society of Australia's Young Economist Award and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences.

His books include Disconnected (2010), Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia (2013), The Economics of Just About Everything (2014), The Luck of Politics (2015), Choosing Openness: Why Global Engagement is Best for Australia (2017), Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World (2018), Innovation + Equality: How to Create a Future That Is More Star Trek Than Terminator (with Joshua Gans) (2019), Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook (with Nick Terrell) (2020), and What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics (2021).

Andrew is a keen triathlete and marathon runner, and hosts a podcast called The Good Life: Andrew Leigh in Conversation, about living a happier, healthier and more ethical life.

Prof. Robert Slonim, University of Technology Sydney

Professor Slonim joined the Economics Discipline Group in 2021. He received his PhD in Economics from Duke University in 1995. Bob's research interests are in in Experimental and Behavioural Economics. He has published academic research articles on a range of topics including game theory, education, public policy, charitable donations and altruism across several academic disciplines. He has received several internationally competitive grants including multiple NSF and ARC grants. He was the co-founding editor of the Journal of the Economic Science Association (2015 - 2020) and is currently an Associate Editor at Management Science. Bob was the Director of Research of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's Behavioural Economics Team of Australia (2016-2017), serves on multiple government advisory panels and has provided Expert Witness based on his Behavioural Economics expertise for several public sector bodies including the ACCC and the NZ Commerce Commission.

Prof. Emily Lancsar, Australian National University

Professor Emily Lancsar is Head of the Department of Health Services Research and Policy, and from 2020-2022 served as Associate Dean (Policy and Practice) in the College of Health and Medicine at the ANU. She is an economist with particular interests in valuing life and health, understanding and modelling choice, preferences and behaviour of key decision makers in the health sector, priority setting, economic evaluation and policy analysis.

Emily holds a number of current and past ARC, MRFF, NHMRC, MRC, ESRC, NIHR and EU funded grants and fellowships. She is a member of a number of government advisory committees including the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) and the Economic Sub-Committee of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and was a member of the Evaluation Sub-Committee of MSAC from 2011-2021. She is an Associate Editor of Health Economics and a past Vice President of the Australian Health Economics Society.

Prior to joining ANU, Emily was an Associate Professor in the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University. Joining Monash in 2011 represented a return to Australia after spending more than 7 years at Newcastle University in the UK where she held Senior Lecturer and Lecturer positions in the Department of Economics. Emily also previously worked at CHERE in Sydney and at the Federal Department of Health.

Prof. Robert Breunig, Australian National University

Robert Breunig is the director of the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy. From 2015 to 2016 he was the Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy.

Professor Breunig is one of Australia’s leading Public Policy Economists. He has published in over 50 international academic journals in economics and public policy. Professor Breunig has made significant policy impact through a number of his research projects: the relationship between child care and women’s labour supply; the effect of immigration to Australia on the labour market prospects of Australians; the effect of switching to cash from food stamps in the U.S. food stamp program and the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage.

Professor Breunig’s research is motivated by important social policy issues and debates. His work is characterized by careful empirical study and appropriate use of statistical technique.

Professor Breunig’s research agenda has led to many partnerships with government organizations in Australia and overseas. He works regularly with the Australian Treasury, the Department of Employment, the Department of Industry, the Department of Communication and the Arts, the Productivity Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics as well as many other agencies. He has been a consultant to the private sector on marketing, mergers, bank competition and customer loyalty programs.

Prof. Marco Castillo, Texas A&M University

Marco Castillo's research interests lie primarily in Behavioral Economics, Public Economics, Economics of Education and Experimental Economics. His research focuses on the use of experimental methods to identify optimal policy design and interventions in areas ranging from child development, human capital accumulation, discrimination and charitable fundraising.

He is a Professor of Economics at Texas A&M University (USA), studied economics at the Catholic University of Lima, Peru and received a PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is a Research Fellow at IZA Institute of Labor Economics and served on the Executive Committee of the Economics Science Association.

At the Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne, he is a Professorial Fellow in the Education and Child Development research group.

Prof. Ragan Petrie, Texas A&M University

Professor Ragan Petrie is an applied microeconomist who uses behavioral and experimental approaches to study topics in public and labor economics, including motives for charitable givinggender differences in bargaining and competitiondiscriminationsocial media and the economic preferences of children.

She is a Professor in the Department of Economics at Texas A&M University. At A&M, she is a University Presidential Impact Fellow, a Cornerstone Faculty Fellow in Liberal Arts, and holds the Elton Lewis Faculty Fellowship in Liberal Arts. She is also a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute at University of Melbourne in Australia, where she is on the Steering Committee for the monthly Taking the Pulse of the Nation survey. Her PhD in Economics is from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

HEr research has been published in the Journal of Political Economy, American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Journal of Public Economics and Journal of Economic Literature. She is a co-editor at Experimental Economics. Media coverage of her research includes the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Australian Financial Review. She has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation, the Science of Philanthropy Initiative and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation.

Dr. Andrew Simon, University of Chicago

Dr. Andrew Simon is a Post-Doctoral Scholar in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago and the Research School of Economics at Australian National University.

His research focuses on issues in public finance and labor economics, with a particular interest in local public finance, higher education policy, and the minimum wage.

Dr. Angela Doku, University of Chicago

Dr. Angela Doku is an applied microeconomist who specialises in environmental, development, and behavioural economics.She is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago.

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


Shine Dome, 15 Gordon Street Canberra