The Washington Post

Do federal social programs work?

Since I’ve been writing about the effectiveness of faith-based prisons — and what it takes to have a good evaluation methodology — I thought I’d point out an interesting paper, Do Federal Social Programs Work?, by David Muhlhausen. Here’s the abstract:

Federal social programs consistently fail to achieve their objectives, yet federal spending on social programs has grown faster than the U.S. economy and population over the past 50 years. Scientifically rigorous multisite experimental evaluations have found a consistent pattern of failure in federal social programs, including early childhood education programs such as Head Start. In the current budgetary environment of high deficits and ballooning federal debt, Congress has a moral obligation to cut funding for and even eliminate these ineffective social programs.

This paper is a short backgrounder from the Heritage Foundation, summarizing Muhlhausen’s book of the same name. Muhlhausen himself is a research fellow in empirical policy analysis at Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis. I haven’t examined the paper or the book closely, so I can’t endorse the specific conclusions. But I know the Center for Data Analysis takes its empirics seriously, and this paper (and book) looked interesting enough that I thought I’d flag it for this audience.

Sasha Volokh lives in Atlanta with his wife and three kids, and is an associate professor at Emory Law School. He has written numerous articles and commentaries on law and economics, privatization, antitrust, prisons, constitutional law, regulation, torts, and legal history.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.