For the good of the cause: Generating evidence to inform social policies that reduce health inequalities

Ben Barr, Clare Bambra, Katherine Smith

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A challenge facing health inequalities research is the ‘inverse evidence law’, whereby the availability of evidence tends to vary inversely with the potential impact of the intervention. This chapter reflects on the need to address this by going beyond experimental approaches to evaluate the health inequalities impact of policies as they happen. Broadening research methods to include these ‘natural experiments’ raises questions about causality and the validity of research methods. The chapter briefly discusses experimental and realist perspectives on causality in the evaluation of social policy. It also outlines econometric methods that have been developed to evaluate the impact of ‘natural experiments’, discusses some of the limitations of these, and suggests how they can be enhanced through insights from theory-based approaches to evaluation. Finally, it discusses some of the implications of this for evidence synthesis, and concludes that the synthesis of econometric and qualitative methods, within a realist framework, has great potential for generating evidence to reduce health inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHealth Inequalities
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives
EditorsKatherine Smith, Clare Bambra, Sarah Hill
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780198703358
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2015


  • evidence
  • econometric
  • evaluation
  • health inequalities
  • inverse evidence law
  • natural experiments
  • social policy
  • qualitative methods
  • realist
  • research methods


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