Policy over- and under-design: an information quality perspective

Moshe Maor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This article seeks to improve our understanding of what policy over- and under-design mean; what are the consequences of these suboptimal designs; and how politics matters to these designs. Based on the review of the literature and a variety of examples that focus on the role of information quality in policy design, and drawing on two phenomena from the field of epidemiology (namely, over-adjustment and unnecessary adjustment), the article enhances the definitional clarity of the terms under investigation and allows us to address the difficulty in reconciling technical problem solving with politics. The article proposes new definitional statements of proportionate and disproportionate policy designs that vary according to the extent to which the main design properties are adjusted to low-quality information. It also explores distinct variations in a few policy characteristics resulting from over- and under-design. The policy characteristics examined here include economic efficiency, policy effectiveness, policy robustness; the space for making significant changes at a later stage when high-quality information becomes available; the potential consequences in terms of policy over- and under-reaction; and the political ramifications of these suboptimal designs for elected executives. With regard to the interaction between technical and political logics, the article posits that deliberate policy over- and under-design can be viewed as solutions to serious political problems faced by elected executives, especially in politically sensitive times. Therefore, it facilitates a more realistic understanding of the conditions under which a policy is under- or over-designed to respond to some objectives but entirely proportionate with regard to others.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)395-411
Number of pages17
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Design space
  • Information quality
  • Over-adjustment
  • Over-design
  • Overreaction
  • Under-design
  • Underreaction
  • Unnecessary adjustment


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