A 2020 Washington Post article examined the correlation between police spending and crime. It concluded that, “A review of spending on state and local police over the past 60 years…shows no correlation nationally between spending and crime rates.” This correlation is misleading. An important driver of police spending is the current level of crime, which creates a chicken and egg scenario. Causal research has, in fact, shown that more police lead to a reduction in crime.
Yelp overcame a similar challenge in 2015. A consulting report found that companies that advertised on the platform ended up earning more business through Yelp than those that didn’t advertise on the platform. But here’s the problem: Companies that get more business through Yelp may be more likely to advertise. The former COO and I discussed this challenge and we decided to run a large-scale experiment that gave packages of advertisements to thousands of randomly selected businesses. The key to successfully executing this experiment was determining which factors were driving the correlation. We found that Yelp ads did have a positive effect on sales, and it provided Yelp with new insight into the effect of ads.
Author(s): Michael Luca
Publication Date: 5 Nov 2021
Publication Site: Harvard Business Review