President Obama’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team Releases 2016 Annual Report

October 2016

The White House National Science and Technology Council released the
Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) 2016 Annual Report on September 15. The report updates the progress toward incorporating social and behavioral science research in the design of federal policies and programs, encouraged last year in an executive order from President Barack Obama. The report also includes a guidance document on implementing the executive order.

Increasing college access and affordability is one of the SBST’s eight key policy areas. The report described two ongoing pilot outreach programs for student loan borrowers that have shown promising results. Borrowers were more likely to recertify their income-driven repayment plans upon receiving an email with the amount their payment would increase without action, as compared to those who received a generic email with an average increase. Another pilot program focusing on encouraging borrowers in default to enter into a rehabilitation agreement showed that borrowers were more likely to call the Department of Education when prompted with negative consequences of inaction instead of the benefits of taking action.

A number of other initiatives cited in the report focused on education, including a pilot program to enroll students in the National School Lunch Program through linkages with Medicaid data. The report also highlighted an effort in Georgia, Talk With Me Baby, that addresses the word gap between low-income and high-income young children. The program trains social workers and health professionals in Georgia to encourage parents to have rich verbal interactions with their children.

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