Review of Peter H. Rossi and Walter Williams' [Evaluating Social Programs: Theory, Practice, and Politics] (Seminar Press, New York and London, 1972).

by Robert A. Levine

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback5 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

A "good but discouraging" book of readings in policy evaluation. Neither of the two key essays, by Rossi and Williams, is optimistic about either the present or short-run future of evaluation. Although both are written in the spirit of "Well, at least we are moving in the right direction," the evidence of the book does not really bear out even the qualified optimism for current direction of movement. The readings as a whole indicate that the gap between the abstract techniques and the actual applications is so wide that it is difficult to see how the techniques can be applied directly to policy. Because there are always technical flaws in any evaluation, it is extremely difficult for evaluation results to have a major effect on policy. Analysis can be an important part of the advocacy process leading to the making of policy, but more important than the style of analysis in government is the existence and style of analysts in government. For analysis to be effective, analysts must be listened to by those making policy. Current evidence is that such an audience does not exist, and that is something that Rossi and Williams and their authors can do little about. 5 pp.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.