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.
A State Progress Report 2011-13
Five Steps to Better Policymaking
Our WorkView All
Legislators across the country have enacted laws that promote the use of evidence-based programsand practices. To examine this trend, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative reviewed morethan 100 state statutes passed between 2004 and 2014 and identified five different approaches to promoting data-driven program choices. Read More
In summer 2014, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative partnered with the state of Colorado to incorporate the Results First approach into the state’s budget and policymaking processes. To support these efforts, the Colorado General Assembly dedicated funds during its 2014 session for two new positions within the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting to coordinate the... Read More
In March 2012, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo invited the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to collaborate with the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System. Through this effort, Massachusetts is laying the groundwork for a strong evidence-based approach to policymaking that can... Read More