Analysis

Evidence-Based Policymaking: Findings From States

In a new report, the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative assesses the prevalence and sophistication of six key evidence-based policymaking actions—in each state and the District of Columbia—across four policy areas: behavioral health, child welfare, criminal justice, and juvenile justice. States are categorized as Leading, Established, Modest, or Trailing in their levels of evidence-based policymaking.

These interactive maps provide a range of information regarding states’ engagement in evidence-based policymaking. The first map shows how each state scored overall, while the other two maps detail implementation of particular actions across the policy areas studied. In the full report, Pew researchers explain methods and findings in depth, exploring how states have created different tools and processes to incorporate evidence into decision-making. 

For more information, please visit the report.


Source: Pew analysis of statutes, documents, and interviews.

Evidence-based policymaking actions

To attain advanced status, a state must have:

To attain minimum status, a state must have:

Define levels of evidence

Definitions of multiple tiers of evidence that specify the strength of research methods (e.g., randomized controlled trial) or reputable source for categorization (e.g., What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse)

A definition of one tier of evidence that specifies the strength of research methods (e.g., randomized controlled trial) or reputable source (e.g., What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse)

Inventory existing programs

A list of state programs categorized by at least two levels of evidence that includes data on funding, performance, design, or location

A list of state programs that consistently reports data on funding, performance, design, or location

Compare program costs and benefits

A report on the costs and monetized benefits of multiple related programs

A report on the costs and nonmonetized outcomes of multiple related programs


Source: Pew analysis of statutes, documents, and interviews.

Evidence-based  policymaking actions

To attain advanced status, a state must have:

To attain minimum status, a state must have:

Report outcomes in the budget

Inclusion of research on the effectiveness of specific program(s) in official budget materials*

Inclusion of key outcomes† in official budget materials

Target funds to evidence-based programs

An official document prioritizes at least 50 percent of program funds to evidence-based programs

An official document prioritizes funding to at least one evidence-based program and/or demonstrates that at least 10 percent of programming is evidence-based‡

Require action through state law

State laws require at least two advanced actions or five minimum actions noted above in a single policy area

State laws require at least one advanced action or two minimum actions noted above in a single policy area

* Research must include a citation or specify rigorous methods used (e.g., replication, control group, cost-benefit analysis).

† Key outcomes vary by policy area: (1) behavioral health: hospital re-admissions, relapse, suicide rates, reported substance use; (2) child welfare: permanency, maltreatment, out-of-home placement; (3) criminal and juvenile justice: recidivism, employment, and out-of-home placement (juvenile only).

‡ Document (grants, provider/contract guidelines, memorandums of understanding, agency directives, budget items, or other formal funding requirements) must prioritize one or more evidence-based programs or require recipient to defend evidence behind program selection; or the state can demonstrate that at least 10 percent of program funds, clients, programs, staff, or practices are going to evidence-based programs.


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Catherine An

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