Finding gold in the dross: Outliers as a resource for policy analysis

Anat Gofen, David L. Weimer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This chapter deals outliers in public administration and policy studies. They argue that a commonly defined as observations inconsistent with general patterns in a data set, researchers often consider outliers to be undesirable because they do not fit well with hypothesized generalizations or because they exert disproportionate influence in commonly-used statistical estimation techniques. Less commonly, outliers are viewed as providing valuable information rather than being just unlucky realizations of random error. For public policy and public administration researchers, who look for ways to promote change that improves public well-being, identifiable differences between outliers and the more general pattern may contribute to innovative and desirable policy designs and formulations. This chapter introduces a three-phase method we call outlierism: 1) identifying relevant outliers; 2) identifying possible underlying mechanisms that give rise to the outliers; and 3) assessing accumulated knowledge about outliers for use in policy design. Moving from outliers to policy poses methodological challenges, including establishing a credible relationship between identifiable difference and the outcome of interest, determining if the difference is sui generis or something that could be replicated, and translating the differences into working policies. Outlierism seeks to address these challenges in a structured, systematic way that allows a better integration and exploitation of scientific knowledge to improve policy and administration.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationHandbook of Research Methods in Public Administration, Management and Policy
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781789903485
ISBN (Print)9781789903478
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Eran Vigoda-Gadot and Dana R. Vashdi 2020. All rights reserved.


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