Panel Paper: Benefit-Cost Analysis in the States: Findings from the Results First Project

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 1:15 PM
D'Alesandro (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sara Lepore Dube1, Darcy White2 and Gary VanLandingham2, (1)The Pew Charitable Trusts, (2)Pew Charitable Trusts

Results First, an initiative of the Pew Center on the States and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with additional support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is partnering with states to assess and advance policy options that benefit residents and improve states’ fiscal health.  Our work has two major components––helping states deploy a cutting-edge cost-benefit model in target states, and conducting a comprehensive study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia to assess their use of CBA to inform policy and budget decisions.  The primary research questions our study addressed were: (1) to what extent do states conduct rigorous cost-benefit analyses; (2) what are the strengths and limitations of those analyses; and (3) to what extent do states use cost-benefit data to inform policy decisions? The study collected and assessed consistent data from a variety of sources (e.g., state agencies, national professional organizations, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and media reports) in all fifty states and the District of Columbia from the past four years.  We identified and analyzed more than 400 state cost-benefit studies covering a wide-range of policy areas.  We classified these studies based on their methodological characteristics as “full CBAs,” “quasi CBAs,” and “notable studies.” Our document collection was supplemented by in-depth, semi-structured telephone interviews with key officials directly involved in the policy-making process in each state. Our report describes the ways in which constrained budgets have driven the use of cost-benefit and other rigorous analyses; summarizes common limitations to conducting and using CBAs in the states; and provides recommendations as to how states can best utilize cost-benefit analysis as an effective public policy making tool.