At the Science of Philanthropy Initiative’s (SPI) 2013 annual conference, which aimed to bring together academics and practitioners to begin pushing the science of generosity forward in a more policy-relevant manner, Prof. Angela de Oliveira (resource economics) presented “Care Provision: An Experimental Investigation.” Her paper, part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation, introduces a new experimental model to capture key aspects of the care worker relationship.
De Oliveira's research looks at two major programs designed to improve the welfare of individuals who are care recipients and tests the effectiveness of those two programs. Recipients of care services can be thought of as those in need of individual medical or educational services, such as the ill or elderly, or children. De Oliveira asked whether worker training programs, which enhance worker productivity, are more effective than subsidy programs, which provide supplementary budgets for services such as home health care.
Supporters of worker training programs argue that better-trained providers have a direct effect on improving the welfare of their clients, while supporters of subsidy programs argue that using home-care subsidies allows households to directly provide or contract for needed care. Using experimental economics, de Oliveira simulates a situation where a person in need of care is "provided for" by a manager who can employ a care worker. She then tests two programs designed to capture critical features of subsidy and training programs and finds that training programs have a larger impact on the welfare of care recipients than direct subsidies. Her study shows how lab experiments can be used to provide insight on the effects of potential policy alternatives.