Getting Less for More: Economic Evaluation in the Social Welfare Field

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Getting Less for More: Economic Evaluation in the Social Welfare Field Tom Sefton

Contents Introduction............................................................................................................................ 1 What is economic evaluation? .............................................................................................. 2 Approaches to quantitative evaluation ............................................................................... 5 Evaluation issues in the social welfare field ....................................................................... 8 Alternative perspectives on evaluation............................................................................. 11 Way forward.......................................................................................................................... 20 References .............................................................................................................................. 28

CASEpaper 44 November 2000

Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion London School of Economics Houghton Street London WC2A 2AE CASE enquiries – tel: 020 7955 6679

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Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
The ESRC Research Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) was established in October 1997 with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. It is located within the Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD) at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and benefits from support from STICERD. It is directed by Howard Glennerster, John Hills, Kathleen Kiernan, Julian Le Grand, Anne Power and Carol Propper. Our Discussion Paper series is available free of charge. We also produce summaries of our research in CASEbriefs, and reports from various conferences and activities in CASEreports. To subscribe to the CASEpaper series, or for further information on the work of the Centre and our seminar series, please contact the Centre Administrator, Jane Dickson, on: Telephone: Fax: Email: Web site: UK+20 7955 6679 UK+20 7955 6951 j.dickson@lse.ac.uk http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/Case



Tom Sefton

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Editorial Note
Tom Sefton is a Research Officer at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion and the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics.

Acknowledgments
This paper was prepared as part of on-going research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on developing the infrastructure for economic evaluation in the social welfare field. I am very grateful to the Foundation and to members of the Advisory Group set up to oversee the project, who participated in a helpful and vigorous discussion on an earlier draft and provided more detailed comments in writing. I would also like to thank the other members of the research team, John Hills, Martin Knapp, Howard Glennerster, Sarah Byford, Ann Netten, Jenni Beecham, Franco Sassi, and Dave McDaid, who provided many helpful contributions to the paper.

Abstract
Economic evaluation has an important role in helping to make decisions about the use of scarce resources in an explicit and rational manner, yet economic evaluation is not well-developed in many areas of social welfare. This paper looks at the reasons for this, focusing on what economists could do to redress the situation. It argues that standard approaches to economic evaluation may not always be appropriate, because of the nature of many social welfare interventions and because evaluators need to be able to address a broader set of evaluation questions. Economists could usefully contribute more to the debates that have concerned mainstream evaluators from other disciplines and modify their approach to evaluation accordingly. The paper...
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