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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 2019.  Literature review updated May 2015.
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Second Step is a classroom-based social skills program for reducing aggressive behavior in elementary school-aged children. Second Step focuses on teaching social-emotional competencies and self-regulation skills including nonviolent response techniques. Lessons are taught by a trained teacher in a classroom setting.
The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2018). 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 $203 Benefits minus costs $436
Participants $103 Benefit to cost ratio $4.50
Others $189 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $66 benefits greater than the costs 78 %
Total benefits $561
Net program cost ($125)
Benefits minus cost $436
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
Benefits from changes to:1 Benefits to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime $14 $0 $31 $7 $52
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $34 $79 $43 $43 $200
K-12 grade repetition $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
K-12 special education $47 $0 $0 $23 $70
Health care associated with externalizing behavior symptoms $114 $32 $118 $57 $321
Costs of higher education ($5) ($8) ($2) ($3) ($19)
Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($62) ($62)
Totals $203 $103 $189 $66 $561
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $117 2013 Present value of net program costs (in 2018 dollars) ($125)
Comparison costs $0 2013 Cost range (+ or -) 10 %
To estimate costs, we assume that teachers spend an average of 15 hours teaching Second Step lessons (30 sessions of 30 minutes) and attend a two-day training. To estimate a per-student annual cost, we calculated the value of teacher time using 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 estimate also includes curriculum cost as reported by Second Step ( and registration costs for teachers to attend two days of training (
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.
Estimated Cumulative Net Benefits Over Time (Non-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 non-discounted dollars to simplify the “break-even” point from a budgeting perspective. 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.

^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.

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
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms 6 1 3637 -0.108 0.024 6 0.000 0.141 7 -0.108 0.001
Externalizing behavior symptoms 6 3 4214 -0.060 0.041 7 -0.033 0.028 10 -0.060 0.172
School attendance^ 6 1 1074 0.203 0.144 10 n/a n/a n/a 0.203 0.159
Suspensions/expulsions^ 6 1 1074 0.028 0.144 10 n/a n/a n/a 0.028 0.849

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

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.