In this policy memo, Scott Cody and Andrew Asher propose that federal, state, and local agencies conduct thorough needs assessments to determine if predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation can be used to improve the delivery of social services programs. This proposal aims to provide more effective services for individuals living in poverty by targeting services appropriately, and by identifying effective program improvements. This proposal is chapter fourteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.
Workforce training programs have the potential to improve the lives and incomes of millions of Americans by lifting many into the middle class and preventing others from falling out of it. Despite their promise, however, too many workers enroll in courses that they do not complete or complete courses that do not lead to better jobs, reducing the benefits to workers and the economic return to workforce investments. Louis Jacobson of New Horizons Economic Research and Robert LaLonde of the University of Chicago propose a competition to increase the return on training investments by developing the data and measures necessary to provide the information prospective trainees need, by presenting the information in user-friendly “report cards,” by providing help for prospective trainees to use the information effectively, and by creating incentives for states to implement permanent information systems once they prove cost-effective.
Over the past decade, and particularly over the past five years, new government strategies have begun to emerge—at the federal, state, and local levels—that offer the potential of simultaneously making better use of taxpayer dollars and speeding up progress in addressing serious social problems. Jeffrey Liebman of Harvard University discusses several of these strategies and outlines five steps that policymakers can take to better inform their work with evidence. He also proposes a grant competition that identifies and encourages innovation in ten social policy priority areas as well as federal support for state and local Pay for Success initiatives.
There is significant pressure facing policymakers at all levels of government to fund programs that provide the best results for the best value. Worker training programs provide one example of where better use of evidence could dramatically improve outcomes for many Americans. The Hamilton Project explores how the use of evidence and data could help workers determine which training programs can most effectively help them find employment and increase their earnings.
Changes in the government’s role in housing finance could contribute to budget savings. Phillip Swagel’s proposal to increase the role of private capital in housing finance improves incentives for risk taking and investment, reduces taxpayer exposure to risk, and fosters competition and innovation in housing finance.
Jeffrey Liebman and Jack Smalligan propose a path to improve our disability insurance system, through demonstration projects and administrative changes, that could potentially increase employment and economic engagement among workers with disabilities and provide more rapid and reliable resolution of disability insurance claims for those who cannot work.