21 July 2013

Evidence-based policy-making US-style

Based on our rough calculations, less than $1 out of every $100 of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely.
Since 1990, the federal government has put 11 large social programs, collectively costing taxpayers more than $10 billion a year, through randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of evaluation. Ten out of the 11—including Upward Bound and Job Corps—showed “weak or no positive effects”
Just in case you thought that there was any danger of the whole results agenda and RCT-fetishism taking over in American politics. From an excellent piece in last month's The Atlantic, which by the way is generally fantastic, I just bought a paper copy for the first time and the whole thing was full of interesting - a critical look at the evidence on over 35 female fertility, a thing about how much health food is actually really unhealthy, a note about how recycling can actually increase carbon emissions because it needs more trucks on the streets, and a piece discussing relationships and gender politics and family from the perspective of a man who has sacrificed his career for his wife's. 

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