Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative

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The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, works with states to implement an innovative cost-benefit analysis approach that helps them invest in policies and programs that are proven to work.

Why Cost-Benefit Analysis Matters

In the current fiscal environment, most states face tough budget choices and lack the resources to support traditional levels of public services. Increasingly, policy makers seek programs and policies that yield the greatest benefits in the most cost-effective way. Rigorous analysis of available research can help state leaders:

  • Systematically identify which programs work and which do not;
  • Calculate potential returns on investment of funding alternative programs;
  • Rank programs based on their projected benefits, costs, and investment risks;
  • Identify ineffective programs that could be targeted for cuts or elimination; and
  • Predict the impact of different policy options.

What Policy Makers Say about Cost-Benefit Analysis

Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington State report that this new approach, developed by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, has helped produce bipartisan policies that improved results while saving more than a billion dollars.

"I came from the business sector where we relied on evidence on what was a good investment. In the legislature, I realized we needed to do the same thing. Otherwise, you make decisions based on opinions and anecdotes or one person’s favorite study that may be the exception." —Skip Priest (R), former ranking Republican, Washington State House Committee on Education

"We have research showing ways to lower the crime rate and save money by investing in preventing crime in the first place. It has allowed us to consider policies that are the most effective even if they don’t sound like a sound bite." —Senator Jim Hargrove (D), chair, Washington State Senate Committee on Human Services and Corrections

How We Conduct Our Work

We offer tools to states that more accurately assess the true costs and benefits of public programs. This allows policymakers to identify options that yield the greatest return on investment for taxpayers.

We also help states build a climate for decision-making based on research and evidence. This allows states to eliminate ineffective programs and shift resources to those that generate better outcomes for their citizens.

Results First in Your State

Learn how states are selected to work with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. 

Our Work

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  • The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Alaska

    In March 2015, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with the state of Alaska to further the state’s criminal justice reform efforts. This work will target evidence-based programs and recidivism-reduction grants by generating additional information to help guide policy decisions and ensuring that funded programs deliver the intended results. Read More

  • The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative

    The decisions that state and local governments make today about how to invest their limited resources willdramatically shape our nation’s future. The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, a project of The PewCharitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, works with states and localitiesto develop the tools policymakers need to identify and fund effective programs... Read More

  • The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in Minnesota

    In June 2015, the state of Minnesota joined the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to incorporate the Results First benefit-cost analysis model into its budget and policy processes. This partnership resulted from legislation signed in April 2015 that called for a benefit-cost analysis to evaluate state corrections and human services programs. Minnesota’s executive and legislative... Read More

Media Contact

Jeremy Ratner

Director, Communications


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