Cover: Quantifying Potential Cost Avoidance Implications of Outcomes Reported in Behavioral and Social Science Research

Quantifying Potential Cost Avoidance Implications of Outcomes Reported in Behavioral and Social Science Research

Published Feb 22, 2023

by Bruce R. Orvis, Heather Krull, Michael G. Shanley


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Research Questions

  1. How can one translate estimates of the benefit of screeners, interventions, or other factors assessed in behavioral and social science research into potential cost avoidance estimates and other benefits that senior leaders value?
  2. Does the translation suggest that screeners and interventions can reduce costs or the rates of adverse outcomes?

Senior leaders often broadly appreciate the relevance of behavioral and social science research but are not able to readily compare the value of screening tests, interventions, or other factors analyzed in this literature with the benefits of operational programs or of tools to address different sets of outcomes. The research summarized in this report translates changes in outcomes often reported in behavioral and social science research results into potential cost avoidance estimates and other benefits that senior leaders value.

The authors summarize and evaluate a collection of studies addressing specific outcomes in the behavioral and social science literature of interest to military personnel managers: initial training attrition; later first-term attrition; reenlistment; job qualification; recruit market expansion; training effectiveness; recruiting resource costs and productivity; legal incidents; injuries; suicide; and health care costs, utilization, and outcomes. The factors investigated included personality tests and screeners, additional screeners, incentives, compensation, recruiting resource allocation, deployments, telemedicine, distance learning versus classroom training, and other programs and interventions.

Key Findings

  • Utility functions can be (and were) developed for the outcomes reported in behavioral and social science studies to translate the research results into estimates of cost avoidance or other desired benefits that senior leaders value.
  • The studies examined in this report provide evidence of the success of various screeners, interventions, and other factors in reducing a wide range of adverse outcomes and potential costs.


  • Ideally, research should report results that can be directly used to estimate the effect of a screener or other intervention on the outcome of interest, such as a complete set of regression-based results or actual results for categorical predictors. Providing such data in the future would help maximize the extent to which such research can be interpreted for and used by policymakers.
  • While many of the studies summarized in this report provided all the data necessary to assess them, others did not. Methods were available in some of these cases that allowed estimation of effects on outcomes, but these methods should be considered a less-preferable backup.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center's Personnel, Training, and Health Program.

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