Targeting in social programs: avoiding bad bets, removing bad apples.

Position:Noted studies - Brief article - Book review

Who should be first in line for kidney transplants--the relatively healthy or the severely ill? Should chronic troublemakers be allowed to remain in public housing? Should perpetually disruptive students stay in classes where they may prevent other children from learning? This book, by legal scholar Peter Schuck and economist Richard Zeckhauser take on such vexing policy dilemmas.

The authors present a rigorous framework for analyzing many of the difficult choices policymakers face. Most social programs seek to help "bad draws"--unfortunate, often low-income individuals. Poor targeting of scarce resources, however, often undermines both the effectiveness of those policies and their political support. Many policy failures occur when officials allocate these scarce resources to two groups of bad...

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