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Example #1: Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act

This example is from Murray Levine and David Perkins' book, Principles of Community Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

In the early 1980's, Leonard Jason and Tom Rose, two researchers at DePaul University in Illinois were concerned about getting a law passed that would require child safety seats for young children in the state. They did some background research, and then sent a summary of the research to the members of the Illinois State Senate. Actually, they sent the summary to only half the legislators, chosen randomly as part of an experiment. As it turned out, those receiving the research summary were significantly more likely (79% to 53%) to vote for the bill than those who didn't, and the legislation passed. While the margin of victory might have been greater if the letter had gone to all senators, Jason and Rose's research clearly had an impact on the outcome of the vote.

The following is the text of the letter. Note the use of multiple research methods as well as the concise manner of communication.

"As you know, the Child Passenger Protection Act (House Bill 608) is due to be brought before the Illinois State Senate within the next month. We would like to provide you pertinent data that we hope will be useful to you as you consider this piece of legislation. Tom Rose and I, two investigators at DePaul University, have been collecting data over the past eight months and have found that 93% of children 4 years and less are not placed in appropriate restraints when riding in automobiles. These data were collected in the Chicago metropolitan area and are based on looking at whether children in 1450 cars were in appropriate restraints. To obtain information about citizen attitudes concerning the issue of child restraints in automobiles, in March of 1982 Mr. Rose and I interviewed a sample of Illinois citizens and found that 78% of adults in the Chicago metropolitan area would support the passage of the Child Passenger Protection Act. Illinois traffic statistics indicate that 140 children were killed and 25,828 children injured in automobile accidents during the period from 1975-1981. Not only do these statistics represent a tragic loss of human life and potential, they also represent a tremendous cost in rehabilitative care. For example, a 3-year-old who sustains a spinal injury in an automobile accident -- not an infrequent injury-- and is rendered a paraplegic will require $724,140 dollars in rehabilitative care over his or her life. If this child were rendered a quadriplegic, costs would exceed $3,317,929, for rehabilitative care over his/her lifetime.

Finally, states that have adopted child restraint legislation have experienced significant increases in the use of restraint devices. In Tennessee, for example, twice as many children were placed in appropriate restraints after the Tennessee Child Passenger Protection Act became law on January 1, 1978.

We hope this information is useful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions. I can be reached at 312-321-7884."


Example #2: Santa Monica’s Use of Data to Lift All Boats: A Deeper Look

Four years ago, Santa Monica took a data-driven approach to become a true City of Wellbeing where everyone thrives. The city used a Wellbeing Index to produce a data-based guide for steering policy. The city used existing information from city departments and fresh input from surveys. The Wellbeing index sets a framework for priorities and promotes initiatives on health and wellness.

Contributed by Lia Thompson, University of Kansas, Community Tool Box Intern.