Lerner's Book Creates Some Controversy and Points to Need for Data on Policy
I have enjoyed watching reactions to Josh Lerner's new book - Boulevard of Broken Dreams - over the last few weeks from the Economist, the New York Times, and also state-level development groups. Lerner's book, which is a part of a new Kauffman series at Princeton University Press, and flows in large part from his experience running the Entrepreneurship Working Group at the National Bureau of Economic Research, is an easy read, in my opinion, but one which is likely to simultaneously scare and excite policymakers. Excitement will come from having something which is so comprehensive in its global policy review, but one does get scared at reading the many things which appear can go wrong with usually well-intentioned interventions. For those not having read the book, the SSTI has a nice summary of key points.
For me, Josh's book highlights two things related to measurement:
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- Knowing What to Measure is Hard. In most cases, the items which Josh highlights as keys to success or failure are not things which I would have initially thought to measure about a specific intervention although I think I'd have a better idea what to measure about a venture capital-focused policy. Since I am not trying to do such an assessment currently, I am focused on trying to improve data available from the federal agencies so that granular and consistent data on things like business dynamics, gazelle companies, and high-growth firms are available at the regional or subregional level in the United States. Releasing such data in a timely fashion could greatly aid regional economic development.
- Database on Policy Interventions. Tracking substantive changes to program implementations such as the many that Josh describes is too often left to oral history or chance capture. I would love to see some sort of open-source development of a database of key programmatic interventions to support entrepreneurship and/or innovation over time and major timelines, events, changes, etc. Such data would aid so much in looking for impacts but to my knowledge, no such compilation exists for scholars interested in studying policy to draw from (or add to). If anyone has ideas of data products available here or means by which such data could be collected, I would love to hear suggestions. Perhaps it's possible mine things like Wikipedia in an automated fashion for some of this info?