What are the determinants of well-being and cooperation? Which public policies are the most relevant to enhance these social skills?

Through this second research area of SOWELL, researchers will evaluate public policies that foster citizens’ well-being and pro-social behaviours, particularly in the education field via the evaluation of early-childhood interventions likely to develop non-cognitive and social skills.

A number of projects aimed at developing cooperation and well-being are in the process of being carried out under the framework of the ERC SOWELL. Results from these experiments will be useful for designing effective public policies.

One such project is the “Energie Jeunes” programme, which was carried out in partnership with the French Ministry of Education, as part of “La France s’engage” and for which the impact evaluation is nearing its conclusion. This programme was designed to reduce the dropout rate among French middle-schoolers by developing their capacity for self-discipline, tenacity, and self-confidence. The last wave of data collection for the Energie Jeunes project took place during the 2018-19 school year. Results from initial analysis of the project indicate that this minimalist intervention (just 3 hours each year) has a positive and significant effect both on pupils’ attitudes and on their academic performance. Further analyses will be performed once the final administrative data has been collected.

To get a better idea of how important confidence and social skills are for success at school and beyond, watch the presentation done by Yann Algan through TEDx on the School of Confidence, regarding the marshmallow effect and children’s social skills.

Self-confidence, well-being and trust in others go hand-in-hand. Projects being conducted in this area (Social Mediation at SchoolSocial Diversity in Middle SchoolsMontreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study, etc.) will make it possible to determine which policies and interventions could help develop the non-cognitive and social skills that foster these attitudes from early childhood onward. Their impact will also be measured through rigorous evaluation methodologies, using randomized experiments.

In a similar vein, the “Groupements de créateurs” project focused on facilitating labor market integration through a “project methodology” centered around the development of a business plan by the young participants with non-directive coaching throughout the process. Results indicate that this innovative project leads to both a greater rate of employment (resulting in higher incomes) and increased motivation. This study was financially supported by the “Fonds d’expérimentation pour la jeunesse”.

While the previous projects are aimed at developing non-cognitive skills, the study on public institutions and policy reforms is aimed at analysing the relationship between social preferences (themselves the result of life experience, social cognition, learned skills…) and the quality of institutions and the ways in which people react to policy reform in real world environments. Through large-scale behavioral measures of social preferences and well-being as well as Big Data, this study aims to shed light on the policy and institutional determinants of cooperation in society, particularly as concerns trust in insitutions, and to help the government and researchers to more accurately understand how policy recommendations are perceived by different actors in the civil, economic and political spheres.

In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, this last project is of particular relevance as governments have been forced to initiate relatively controversial policy reforms in order to keep their economies afloat while also caring for the health and well-being of their citizens.


[Act] Public Institutions and Policy Reform

This project is aimed at analysing the relationship between social preferences and the quality of institutions and the ways in which people react to policy reform in real world environments.

[Act] Social Diversity in Middle Schools

This unprecedented study in France aims to extend the evidence on the effects of social diversity in school to non-cognitive skill development.

[Act] Social Mediation at School

This social experimentation aimed to test the relative effectiveness of two distinct and innovative approaches to reduce school bullying and improve school climate.

[Act] Energie Jeunes

This RCT aims to evaluate the effects of a large-scale mindset intervention on school outcomes and dropouts.

[Act] Montreal Longitudinal Experimental Study

This research analyzes the long-term effect on social preferences of an early childhood randomized intervention explicitly targeted at social skills: the Montreal Longitudinal Experiment Study (MLES).

[Act] “Groupement de Créateurs”: Encouraging Youth Entrepreneurship in France

The evaluation is about the impact of the « Groupement de Créateurs » program for young unemployed people who have expressed an interest in starting a business.