Ron Haskins began the new year on a positive note. The co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, Haskins reports that “a growing body of evidence shows that a few model social programs” work, and that “the Obama administration, building on work by the Bush administration, has insisted that money for evidence-based initiatives go primarily to programs with rigorous evidence of success as measured by scientifically designed evaluation.”
Haskins should know: he was a policy analyst who helped House Republicans design the 1996 welfare overhaul, he advised President George W. Bush on social policy, and he is supporting the Obama administrations evidence-based initiative.
Successful evidence-based programs include a Teen Outreach Program in Florida, a Reading Partners program in a number of low-income communities, a Nurse-Family Partnership Program in Pennsylvania, and a comprehensive school reform program known as Success for All.
In “Social Programs That Work,” Haskins also argues that randomized experiments are necessary to determine “what works.” You can read his argument at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/14/opinion/sunday/what-people-buy-where.html?_r=0.
Does this article convince you of the value of randomized experiments? What about after you read chapter 7 in Investigating, on Experimental Design? What other ways does Chapter 12, Evaluation and Policy Research, suggest for studying social programs? Is it ethical to cut funding for programs that don’t seem to work after a rigorous evaluation? To fund programs that do not work when we know that others do?