ERIC Number: ED355238
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Jun
Reference Count: N/A
Evaluation of Federal Social Programs: An Uncertain Impact. Occasional Paper 1992-2.
Levitan, Sar A.
This paper explores the impact that the evaluation industry has had on the development and implementation of social policy and programs, primarily as carried out by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. In addition, major tools evaluators have developed and used, and the institutional arrangements through which they have worked are reviewed. Three principal approaches that have emerged in the evaluation industry funded by executive and congressional agencies and by the grant and contract establishment are microsimulation, experimental and quasi-experimentation, and qualitative studies. With regard to experimentation and quasi-experimentation, a case for randomization, selection modeling, the New Jersey income support experiment, selecting a probabilistic sample, the elusiveness of the target population, attrition, the need to generalize to untested treatments, biases arising from the limited duration of experiments, feedback effects, Hawthorne effects, and the elusiveness of consensus are considered. Advocates of each method may claim that their method of estimating program impact offers policymakers better insights into the effects of policy decisions than those of alternative methods. Analysts have been unable to agree about the impact of social policy evaluation. Current practices, including those used by the General Accounting Office, are generally not adequate as guides to making choices among social policy alternatives. Improved results will be obtained only by making more effective use of various methodologies and by achieving a better balance in funding them. There is cause for optimism that program evaluation will justify its continued funding. (SLD)
Descriptors: Decision Making, Evaluation Methods, Evaluation Utilization, Experiments, Federal Programs, Program Evaluation, Public Policy, Qualitative Research, Research Methodology, Simulation, Social Services
Public Interest Publications, 3030 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22201, or P.O. Box 229, Arlington, VA 22210.
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Ford Foundation, New York, NY.
Authoring Institution: George Washington Univ., Washington, DC. Center for Social Policy Studies.