Are Federal Social Programs Working? No One Knows

By Muhlhausen, David | The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Are Federal Social Programs Working? No One Knows


Muhlhausen, David, The Christian Science Monitor


Most federal social programs have never been evaluated for true effectiveness. The good news is that they are ideally situated for just such study.

Health, education, welfare ... the federal government spends more than $630 billion annually on hundreds of social programs. How many of them work? No one knows. And that's a problem.

Most federal programs have never been evaluated for true effectiveness. And most evaluations that are conducted - and there are many - aren't worth the paper they're written on. They may examine a national program only locally, or lack a "control group" to compare against.

The best way to determine whether such programs work is to conduct large-scale, multisite, experimental evaluations. These studies should use random assignment to compare results of people assigned to programs with those in similar circumstances but not assigned to the programs.

The good news is that federal programs are ideally situated to accommodate such evaluations. The bad news: The federal government has conducted only 13 such evaluations since it began to study itself in the 1960s.

Maybe the Feds just don't want to be purveyors of bad news. That's certainly what emerged from the 2010 Head Start Impact Study. A rigorous experimental evaluation, the study placed almost 5,000 children eligible for Head Start into two treatment conditions, determined by a lottery. Children who won the lottery got access to prekindergarten Head Start services; the others either didn't attend preschool or found alternatives to Head Start.

The study tracked the children's progress through kindergarten and the first grade. Overall, the program yielded little to no positive effects. On all 41 measures of cognitive ability, Head Start failed to raise abilities of those who entered the program as 4-year-olds. Specifically, their language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance were no better than those of the children denied access to the program.

Those who entered as 3-year-olds had similar results. They scored no better than nonparticipants on 40 of the cognitive measures and significantly worse on one: Head Start grads, according to their kindergarten teachers, were significantly less well prepared in math skills.

The quintessential "Great Society" program, Head Start was intended to give disadvantaged children an educational boost before starting elementary school.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Are Federal Social Programs Working? No One Knows
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.