ERIC Number: ED175790
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Sep
Reference Count: 0
Evaluating Federal Social Programs: An Uncertain Act.
Levitan, Sar A.; Wurzburg, Gregory K.
This study of the federal government's evaluation of social programs indicates that it is virtually impossible to establish a bias-free, valid, and reliable system of inquiry to determine the effects of social programs. Divided into five chapters, the document examines the aspirations and limitations of evaluations, methodology, evaluation in the legislative and executive branch, and considers the need for continuous assessment. The authors point out that data for describing the nature and extent of social problems provide only rough approximations; although methodologies are sophisticated mathematically and statistically, results are not relevant. Also, federal evaluation efforts suffer from being conducted in an institutional climate that abounds with administrative barriers and which perpetuates service to political interests. Although the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, has maintained its reputation for independence, their studies offer little constructive commentary on what is feasible social policy. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) relies upon secondary sources for their evaluations. Finally, the reality of the world in which social policies are formulated and implemented is the most serious limitation of the usefulness of social program evaluations. Social programs are narrow, arbitrary, and fail to take full account of the global nature of many social problems. The authors conclude that the future role of evaluators seems to be that of analyzing program operations rather than passing judgment on program impacts. (Author/KC)
Descriptors: Evaluation Methods, Evaluation Needs, Evaluators, Federal Programs, Policy Formation, Political Influences, Political Power, Program Evaluation, Reputation, Research Methodology, Research Problems, Social Agencies, Social Problems, Social Science Research, State of the Art Reviews
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 300 South Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49007 ($3.50 paperback, $5.50 cloth cover)
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Ford Foundation, New York, NY.
Authoring Institution: George Washington Univ., Washington, DC. Center for Social Policy Studies.; Upjohn (W.E.) Inst. for Employment Research, Kalamazoo, MI.