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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Second Step

Pre-K to 12 Education
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated March 2020.
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Second Step is a classroom-based social skills program for reducing aggressive behavior in elementary and middle school-aged students. Second Step is rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL) and teaches SEL competencies and self-regulation skills, including nonviolent response techniques, empathy training, and anger management. Second Step aims to transform schools into supportive learning environments where students understand and acknowledge their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

In an elementary school setting, lessons are taught by the primary classroom teacher. For students in middle school, the curriculum is often taught by an English, health/physical education, or social sciences teacher. On average, teachers administer 35-minute lessons twice-weekly for approximately five months.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $200 Benefits minus costs $401
Participants $98 Benefit to cost ratio $4.93
Others $174 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $32 benefits greater than the costs 84%
Total benefits $503
Net program cost ($102)
Benefits minus cost $401

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
7 2 2147 -0.028 0.102 8 n/a n/a n/a -0.028 0.786
7 2 2147 0.205 0.116 8 n/a n/a n/a 0.205 0.077
7 1 2913 -0.108 0.027 7 0.000 0.141 8 -0.108 0.001
7 4 3495 -0.048 0.025 7 -0.026 0.019 10 -0.048 0.059
7 4 3800 0.104 0.042 7 n/a n/a n/a 0.105 0.009
7 1 2889 -0.086 0.027 7 -0.086 0.027 9 -0.086 0.001
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Externalizing behavior symptoms Criminal justice system $13 $0 $29 $7 $49
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $32 $76 $42 $0 $150
K-12 special education $55 $0 $0 $28 $83
Health care associated with externalizing behavior symptoms $102 $29 $105 $51 $286
Costs of higher education ($5) ($7) ($2) ($2) ($17)
Internalizing symptoms K-12 grade repetition $2 $0 $0 $1 $3
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($51) ($51)
Totals $200 $98 $174 $32 $503
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $90 2018 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($102)
Comparison costs $0 2018 Cost range (+ or -) 40%
The per-participant cost estimate includes teacher training time and program materials. We assume that teachers attend a two-day training to become certified to teach Second Step. To estimate a per-student annual cost, we use average Washington State compensation costs (including benefits) for a K–8 teacher as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and divide by the number of students in a prototypical elementary school. The cost of the curriculum was retrieved from the Second Step website ( and registration costs for teachers to attend two days of training (retrieved from
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Bogue, H. (2011). Impact of a violence prevention curriculum on kindergarteners' behavior (Doctoral dissertation). Nothern Arizona University: Proquest, Umi Dissertatio.

Frey, K.S., Nolen, S.B., Van, S.E.L., & Hirschstein, M.K. (2005). Effects of a school-based social-emotional competence program: Linking children's goals, attributions, and behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(2), 171-200.

Grossman, D.C., Neckerman, H.J., Koepsell, T.D., Liu, P.Y., Asher, K.N., Beland, K., . . . Rivara, F.P. (1997). Effectiveness of a violence prevention curriculum among children in elementary school: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277(20), 1605-1611.

Low, S., Cook, C.R., Smolkowski, K., & Buntain-Ricklefs, J. (2015). Promoting social-emotional competence: An evaluation of the elementary version of Second Step®. Journal of School Psychology, 53(6), 463-477.

Neace, W.P., & Muñoz, M.A. (2012). Pushing the boundaries of education: Evaluating the impact of Second Step®: A violence prevention curriculum with psychosocial and non-cognitive measures. Child & Youth Services, 33(1), 46-69.

Sullivan, T.N., Sutherland, K.S., Farrell, A.D., & Taylor, K.A. (2015). An evaluation of Second Step: What are the benefits for youth with and without disabilities?. Remedial and special education, 36(5), 286-298.