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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  • Utah Targets Funding to Programs That Prove Effective

    In a new report, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative names Utah as one of five leading states in evidence-based policymaking. These top states—Washington followed by Utah and Minnesota with Connecticut and Oregon tied for fourth—have consistently pursued key actions to incorporate evidence (findings from program evaluations and outcome analyses) into policy and budget decisions. Read More

  • Washington State Leads in Evidence-Based Policymaking

    Washington is nationally recognized for its routine engagement in evidence-based policymaking. In 1983, the Legislature created a nonpartisan research organization, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), with a mandate that includes identifying ways to improve outcomes for state residents. In 2007, the Legislature also created the Evidence-Based Practice Institute, which offers... Read More

  • State Fiscal Policy Toolkit

    The Pew Charitable Trusts researches the fiscal challenges faced by states and examines the policy options available to address them. The resources listed below, which include comprehensive 50-state assessments, illuminate common concerns and creative solutions to help policymakers understand the issues and learn from one another’s experiences. Read More

Evidence-Based Policymaking Made Easy by 'Results First' Tool

Results First

Media Contact

Catherine An

Officer, Communications

202.552.2088