Show Me the Evidence

Show Me the Evidence: Obama's Fight for Rigor and Results in Social Policy

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Show Me the Evidence
    Book Description:

    This book tells the story of how the Obama administration planned and enacted several initiatives to fund social programs based on rigorous evidence of success and thereby created a fundamental change in the role of evidence in federal policymaking.

    Using interviews with the major players from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies, Congress, and the child advocacy community, the authors detail the development and implementation of six evidence-based social policy initiatives by the Obama administration.

    The initiatives range widely over fundamental issues in the nation's social policy including preschool and K-12 education, teen pregnancy, employment and training, health, and community-based programs. These initiatives constitute a revolution in the use of social science evidence to guide federal policymaking and the operation of federal grant programs.

    A fascinating story for everyone interested in politics and policy, this book also provides a blueprint for policymakers worldwide who are interested in expanding the use of evidence in policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2570-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Bloodletting was a common medical practice for thousands of years, used by the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, and Aztecs and by Europeans from the Middle Ages through the mid-nineteenth century. The practice, which appears to have arisen from the intuitive idea that illness is caused by blood and other bodily fluids being out of balance, has been supported by both sophisticated theories and widespread folk wisdom. It has now been all but eliminated from modern medicine, having been shown in well-designed experiments since the mid-nineteenth century to be useless in treating any but a small number of very specialized medical conditions....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Obama Strategy for Attacking Social Problems
    (pp. 1-30)

    In the sixth century B.C., a young Jewish man named Daniel was captured by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, to serve as an adviser. While being held in captivity, Daniel and several of his companions refused to eat the food or drink the wine offered by the king, referring to the act of eating their captor’s food as “defilement.” But the official in charge of the king’s slaves, who was responsible for their health and well-being, told Daniel that he was afraid that the king would kill him if Daniel began to show the effects of poor nutrition, in contrast to...

  6. 2 The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative
    (pp. 31-66)

    A large research literature going back more than six decades shows that parents’ child-rearing practices have an impact on their children’s development.¹ In fact, parents are the major influence on their children’s development.² Parents who talk frequently to their children beginning in infancy and engage their children in back-and-forth discussions have children who perform better on tests of intelligence and school readiness. Similarly, parents who avoid physical punishment, facilitate exploration of the environment, take their children to interesting places, and select quality child care settings have children who do better in school and in life. Two respected researchers in this...

  7. 3 The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative
    (pp. 67-101)

    Reducing teen pregnancy is an important goal of public policy because teen pregnancy imposes significant costs on young parents, their babies, and society in general. The scholarly research literature on teen pregnancy, which has been growing since at least the 1970s, now includes empirical studies showing that many programs designed to reduce teen pregnancy can actually do so.¹ As knowledge about teen pregnancy grew over the past several decades, more and more organizations developed, implemented, and sometimes conducted rigorous evaluations of programs designed to reduce teen sexual activity, increase use of birth control, and reduce teen pregnancy. In addition, state...

  8. 4 The Investing in Innovation Initiative
    (pp. 102-131)

    Democrats traditionally have been joined at the hip with unions. But from early in his Senate career, Barack Obama dropped hints that he might not go along with the historical Democrat-union coalition on education, despite the fact that picking a fight with a trusted and rich ally is one of the most difficult—and potentially dangerous—things that a politician can do. As it turned out, the degree to which Obama was willing to oppose union views on public education showed both his willingness to take risks to achieve his goals for K–12 education and the extent to which...

  9. 5 The Social Innovation Fund Initiative
    (pp. 132-167)

    The United States is blessed with thousands of small nonprofit organizations that aim to improve life in their communities. According to theNonprofit Almanac, nearly 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations operate in the country, of which about 950,000 are public charities and nearly 100,000 are private foundations.¹ The Urban Institute estimated that in 2010 nonprofits that provide human services received about $100 billion through contracts and grant agreements with government agencies.² Many of these organizations focus on social problems, especially ones that afflict children, such as poor performance in school, dropping out of school, delinquency, neglectful or abusive parenting, and family...

  10. 6 The Workforce Innovation Fund Initiative
    (pp. 168-187)

    Promoting employment is one of the most important goals of social policy, in part because employment can enable individuals and families to become financially independent and thereby reduce or even eliminate the need for public benefits. American society has a strong tradition of pursuing self-sufficiency. The social safety net, supported by federal, state, and sometimes local dollars, is premised on the idea that able-bodied individuals will do everything possible to support themselves rather than accept public benefits, almost always by finding and accepting employment. From young people hoping to become self-sufficient adults to adults trying to escape dependence on welfare,...

  11. 7 The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Initiative
    (pp. 188-212)

    The story behind the development of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program is as long and complicated as its name. The program, according to one OMB official, has “a fascinating history … and a horrible acronym.” From the earliest days of the Obama administration, officials, especially those at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the White House, were interested in creating a major initiative on community colleges. In light of the struggling economy, the administration saw higher education and workforce development as important priorities. President Obama announced a focus on both in...

  12. 8 So Far, So Good
    (pp. 213-240)

    The Obama administration is trying to combat the nation’s major social problems through a well-conceived plan for using rigorous evidence of success as a basis for developing, testing, and expanding effective domestic social programs. To promote the development and use of such programs, the administration is undertaking six evidence-based initiatives that cover the waterfront of the nation’s social issues, including infant and child health and development, preschool education, K–12 education, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teens, student performance, and community college education and job training. The general strategy followed by the administration in carrying out the initiatives is...

  13. Appendix A. Interviewees
    (pp. 241-248)
  14. Appendix B. Questionnaire
    (pp. 249-252)
  15. Appendix C. Share of Formula and Competitive Grant Funds in Six Evidence-Based Initiatives
    (pp. 253-254)
  16. Appendix D. Abbreviations
    (pp. 255-258)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-296)
  18. Index
    (pp. 297-319)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 320-320)