800 cities and towns have adopted a home visiting program for young mothers in an ambitious effort to reduce infant mortality in the U.S. Although home visiting programs have been used for more than a century, their popularity increased dramatically due to the results of an ambitious program of evaluation research.
In randomized clinical trials designed by child development expert David Olds in the 1970s, nurses visited homes of impoverished mothers in several cities. As a result, death rates dropped, child abuse and neglected plummeted, maternal employment and children’s subsequent GPAs improved, and arrest rates for the children when they were older dropped.
You can read a longer summary of this evaluation research in a New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/health/program-that-helps-new-mothers-learn-to-be-parents-faces-broader-test.html.
Do you find these results compelling? What else would you like to know about the research in order to assess its quality? What could qualitative methods add to our understanding of the effect of home visiting? Do you think that it can be ethical to allocate people to a social program on a random basis in order to test the value of the program? Why or why not?