Revolutions in Evaluation and Welfare

Published date01 September 2014
Date01 September 2014
Book Reviews 667
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
occurred amid the nation’s struggle to reform welfare,
in which they played central roles.  e story stretches
over 40 years.  is remarkable book is a must-read
for anyone who is interested in evaluation or national
social policy.
Random Assignment
Evaluators had long recognized that the experimen-
tal design produces the best estimate of a program’s
actual ef‌f ects. is is because it guarantees that the
treatment and control groups will not dif‌f er in any
important way. In lesser evaluation designs, we are
less sure of this.  e alternative to an experiment,
based on random assignment, is often a “quasi-
experiment,” in which the clients served are matched
against a “comparison group” of people from outside
Judith M. Gueron and Howard Rolston, Fighting
for Reliable Evidence (New York: Russell Sage
Foundation, 2013). 575 pp. $49.95 (paper),
ISBN: 9780871544933.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a revolution rolled
through national evaluation policy. Norms
changed so that major evaluations of social pro-
grams had to use an experimental methodology.  at
is, outcomes for clients receiving the program were
to be compared to those for a control group—and
applicants should be allocated randomly between the
two groups. Judith M. Gueron and Howard Rolston
were the chief architects of this sea change. In Fighting
for Reliable Evidence, they give their own f‌i rsthand
account of how it happened. Much of that drama
Revolutions in Evaluation and Welfare
Sonia M. Ospina and Rogan Kersh, Editors
Lawrence M. Mead
New York University
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 75, Iss. 4, pp. 667–671. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12265.
Lawrence M. Mead is professor of
politics and public policy at New York
University. He is a leading expert on poverty
and welfare reform in America and other
rich countries. Among academics, he was a
principal exponent of work requirements in
welfare, the approach that now dominates
national policy. He is also a leading scholar
of the politics and implementation of wel-
fare reform and work programs for men.

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