Targeting in Social Programs

Targeting in Social Programs: Avoiding Bad Bets, Removing Bad Apples

Peter H. Schuck
Richard J. Zeckhauser
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 175
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  • Book Info
    Targeting in Social Programs
    Book Description:

    Should chronically disruptive students be allowed to remain in public schools? Should nonagenarians receive costly medical care at taxpayer expense? Who should be first in line for kidney transplants -the relatively healthy or the severely ill? In Targeting in Social Programs, Peter H. Schuck and Richard J. Zeckhauser provide a rigorous framework for analyzing these and other difficult choices. Many government policies seek to help unfortunate, often low-income individuals -in other words, "bad draws." These efforts are frequently undermined by poor targeting, however. In particular, when two groups of bad draws -"bad bets" and "bad apples" -are included in social welfare programs, bad policies are likely to result. Many politicians and policymakers prefer to sweep this problem under the rug. But the costs of this silence are high. Allocating resources to bad bets and bad apples does more than waste money -it also makes it harder to achieve substantive goals, such as the creation of safe and effective schools. And perhaps most important, it erodes support for public programs on which many good bets and good apples rely. By training a spotlight on these issues, Schuck and Zeckhauser take a first step toward much-needed reforms. They dissect the challenges involved in defining bad bets and bad apples and discuss the safeguards that any classification process must provide. They also examine three areas where bad apples and bad bets loom large -public schools, public housing, and medical care -and propose policy changes that could reduce the problems these two groups pose. This provocative book does not offer easy answers, but it raises questions that no one with an interest in policy effectiveness can afford to ignore. By turns incisive and probing, Bad Draws will generate vigorous debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-7879-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book has a simple and straightforward message. The political and programmatic success of social programs requires improved target efficiency: directing resources where they do the most good. Although this fact is widely understood, it is seldom discussed, much less analyzed—and certainly not by the supporters of such programs. Our principal goal in writing this book is to make that discussion more coherent, better informed, and easier to conduct.

    The public domain boasts many sound social programs. Some of these programs seek to allocate resources to individuals who are members of a legally defined target group—people whom politicians...

  5. 2 Conceptual Foundations of Target Efficiency
    (pp. 7-26)

    In chapter 1, we presented preliminary definitions of some of the concepts that will figure centrally in our analysis of target efficiency in social programs. In this chapter, we elaborate on and refine these concepts, add some important ideas, make explicit the assumptions and methodology that will guide this analysis, and consider what should happen to the bad bets who are avoided and the bad apples who are removed under our approach.

    Bad drawsare people who were dealt a bad hand at birth or later and who have suffered misfortune as a result. (We also refer to bad draws...

  6. 3 High Stakes, Misguided Evasions, and Bad Policies
    (pp. 27-45)

    This chapter consists of three parts. First, we describe the stakes involved in improving target efficiency in social programs, with a focus on the importance of avoiding bad bets and removing bad apples. Second, we consider certain recurring impediments to reform and the failure of politicians, bureaucrats, and well-targeted redistributionists to take on the problems created by bad bets and bad apples. Given the high stakes, this failure represents a significant missed opportunity to increase support for programs designed to help bad draws who are good apples. Third, we offer a taxonomy of bad policy types. Here, we distinguish between...

  7. 4 Avoiding Bad Bets
    (pp. 46-74)

    Bad bets can be found in virtually every social program. Most of our analysis of the bad bets problem will concern choices made by health care providers. Health care (as Willie Sutton famously said of banks) is where the money is. But medical decisions also raise the most difficult ethical issues. Even so, it is important to note that the bad bets problem,mutatis mutandis, afflicts the provision of other social services. Thus, bad bets include the student who plans to attend college but is unlikely to learn much, the participant in a drug rehabilitation program who is highly likely...

  8. 5 Removing Bad Apples
    (pp. 75-98)

    Social programs often include a significant number of bad apples, individuals who impose large costs on good apples both in and out of the program, as well as on taxpayers generally. We maintain that these programs should seek to identify bad apples and then to remove them from the midst of the good apples. By improving the fairness and target efficiency of programs intended to benefit the good apple participants, removal would lead to more generous support for such programs among the numerous voters who are well-targeted redistributionists.

    Few policy intellectuals are willing to examine the bad apples problem closely....

  9. 6 Predictive Accuracy and Procedural Protection
    (pp. 99-128)

    Chapters 1 and 2 briefly discussed target efficiency, which we defined as directing resources to those who can make the best use of them, while not harming others. This concept was extended and applied in our analysis of bad bets (chapter 4) and bad apples (chapter 5). In this chapter, we examine the most important methods for achieving target efficiency. We first discuss how target efficiency affects the way eligibility for social programs should be determined and which institutions should make and apply those determinations. Then we consider the two most important prerequisites for the pursuit of target efficiency: predictive...

  10. 7 Better Information, Better Targeting, and Better Policies
    (pp. 129-136)

    The previous chapters have pointed the way toward better targeting in social programs. In this final chapter, we discuss the steps that policymakers should take to implement our approach. First, they must secure better information about individuals and programs. Second, they must consider what will be done with those who are screened out of or removed from social programs under this better-targeting approach. Finally, once these decisions have been made, they must apply our criteria to specific cases.

    The first step toward improving target efficiency is to generate better information about the bad bets and bad apples problems. Earlier chapters...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-162)
  12. Index
    (pp. 163-170)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-172)