New Mexico Embraces Evidence-Based Policymaking

Executive branch agencies take an innovative approach

New Mexico Embraces Evidence-Based Policymaking

Each year, state government leaders make difficult choices about which services to fund with increasingly limited resources. Programs to educate children, correct criminal behavior, and improve the health and well-being of residents are often funded without sufficient information and instead are based on anecdote or precedent. To cut through the stories and get to the data, an increasing number of state leaders are adopting the Pew-MacArthur Results First approach: using rigorous evidence to inform their program investments.

Evidence-based policymaking is a good-government trend catching on at multiple levels. Many federal agencies, state governments, and county and city administrations are adopting this approach to make decisions based on proven research. New Mexico in particular has become a leader by embracing the concept and implementing it in innovative ways.

While some states use legislation to encourage investment in evidence-based programs, others focus on the agencies that deliver critical services to residents. New Mexico has taken important steps to embed the approach in the way its executive branch agencies manage their operations. 

This fall, after working with Results First for several years, the New Mexico Corrections Department adopted an administrative policy that confirms the agency’s dedication to evidence-based programming. The policy establishes a framework that commits the agency to a continual inventory of its programs; mandates that 70 percent of program funds are directed to evidence-based programs; and institutes contracting standards that require vendors to document use of evidence-based practices and monitor outcomes for homegrown programs to ensure that they meet their goals. In launching the policy, the state Corrections Department has demonstrated a proactive commitment to rigorous, sustainable, and ongoing evidence-based policymaking.

With this administrative action, New Mexico has further established its culture of using evidence to inform decisions. This not only will improve the state’s current work but also will open the door for similar reforms in the future. 

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Data-driven policymaking is not just a tool for finding new solutions for emerging challenges, it makes government more effective and better able to serve the public interest. In the coming months, President Joe Biden and the 117th Congress will tackle a number of environmental, health, public safety, and fiscal and economic issues—nearly all of them complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help solve specific, systemic problems in a nonpartisan fashion, Pew has compiled a series of briefings and recommendations based on our research, technical assistance, and advocacy work across America.