The Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Children and Families
Board: Board on Children, Youth, and Families

Activity Description

An ad hoc committee will study how to improve the use of economic analysis of costs, benefits, and potential for return on investment to inform policy and funding decisions on investments for children, youth, and families. The committee will make recommendations to improve the quality, utility, and use of research, evaluation, and economic evidence about investments in children, youth and families. The committee will take into consideration the perspectives of and actions that can be taken by prevention researchers, economic researchers, implementation researchers, evaluation scientists, implementers, and those engaged in making decisions about policies and investments. Throughout its information gathering and deliberations, the committee will consider lessons learned from similar economic analyses in other fields.

The committee will:

  • Review and investigate the current landscape of the design, methods, utility, and use of research and evaluation on effectiveness, costs, benefits, feasibility to implement on a large scale, and potential for return on investment to determine what is being learned about investments in children, youth, and families; who is using the knowledge; and how it is being used.
  • Review existing standards or guides for the design, methods, and reporting of cost effectiveness, benefit-cost, return on investment, and budgetary impact analyses.
  • Identify areas where widespread adoption of common methodological approaches is needed to ensure both consistent quality (e.g., appropriate choice of methods, validity, rigor) and appropriate utility (e.g., match of research questions to policy and implementation needs, comparability of studies, consistency of reporting).
  • Specify common methodological approaches to be adopted in areas where sufficient evidence is available to reach consensus, including articulating options where one fixed standard may not be appropriate or needed.
  • Identify and propose principles and processes for arriving at and adopting common methodological approaches over time in areas where consensus is not currently achievable or appropriate.
  • Identify and propose processes for ensuring that the research and evaluation community, implementers, and those engaged in decision making are mutually informed and involved in designing studies, evaluations, and economic analyses to answer both important research questions and critical policy questions (e.g., costs, implementation, and effects at scale; components of interventions; portfolios of interventions; timeframe of anticipated outcomes and returns; accrual of benefits and returns to sectors/budgets other than the original expenditure).
  • Identify current efforts and propose potential opportunities to support sustained, ongoing use of research, evaluation, and economic evidence in the public, philanthropic, and private sectors to inform investment in children, youth, and families. This includes incorporating evidence into decision-making processes alongside other political and value considerations.

The committee will build on the information gathered in two prior workshops conducted by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council: the 2009 Workshop on Strengthening Benefit-Cost Analysis for Early Childhood Interventions and the 2013 Workshop on Standards for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Preventive Interventions for Children, Youth, and Families.



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