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Return on Investment: Evidence-based Options to Improve Statewide Outcomes

NCJ Number
Stephanie Lee; Steve Aos; Elizabeth Drake; Annie Pennucci ; Marna Miller; L. Anderson
Date Published
April 2012
8 pages

This April 2012 report provides a snapshot of contemporary evidence-based policy options on many public policy topics and, where possible, provides an independent assessment of the costs and benefits of each option from the perspective of Washington state citizens and taxpayers.


This brief report is a response to the Washington State Legislature’s direction to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP or Institute) to identify evidence-based policies that have been shown to improve particular outcomes in the following areas: juvenile justice; adult corrections; child welfare; Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade (elementary through high school); children’s mental health; general prevention programs for children and adolescents; substance abuse; adult mental health; public health, specifically teen pregnancy and obesity prevention; and housing. The report contains recommendations on policy options that may give taxpayers a good return on their investment (“buys”), as well as those that apparently cannot (“sells”). The report provides background information; an explanation of the authors’ approach to research, including the determination of what works or does not work, what makes economic sense, and risk assessment of the policies; and notes changes since the July 2011 update; and finally, evidence-based policy options are presented in Exhibit 1.