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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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City Connects

Public Health & Prevention: School-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated September 2018.
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City Connects forms partnerships between schools, community partners, and a college or university in order to address out-of-school barriers to learning. The program places a School Site Coordinator (SSC), typically a school counselor or social worker, within schools. Working with teachers, SSCs conduct a risk assessment and assign students to one of four risk levels. SSCs collaborate with school personnel to administer services directly to students and also refer students to enrichment programs with community partners. Individual student progress and referrals are tracked through the use of an electronic database. This single study included in this analysis concerns City Connects programs that were implemented in kindergarten through 5th grade and ranged in duration from three to six years.
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 $1,000 Benefits minus costs $1,969
Participants $2,355 Benefit to cost ratio $2.12
Others $1,241 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($875) benefits greater than the costs 58%
Total benefits $3,720
Net program cost ($1,751)
Benefits minus cost $1,969

^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
5 1 1901 0.019 0.030 12 n/a n/a n/a 0.051 0.088
5 1 1901 0.029 0.030 12 0.022 0.033 17 0.077 0.010
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
Test scores Labor market earnings associated with test scores $1,000 $2,355 $1,241 $0 $4,595
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($875) ($875)
Totals $1,000 $2,355 $1,241 ($875) $3,720
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $274 2017 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($1,751)
Comparison costs $0 2017 Cost range (+ or -) 40%
The per-participant cost estimate includes school staff time, School Site Coordinators, program materials, and central administrative City Connects staff time. We use the average school staff and site coordinator time, school counselor-to-student ratio, and cost of materials as reported in Bowden, A.B., Belfield, C.R., Levin, H.M., Shand, R., Wang, A., & Morales, M. (2015). A benefit-cost analysis of City Connects. Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education: Teachers College, Columbia University. We assume a half-hour of principal and vice principal time per week. We estimate the value of staff time using average Washington State compensation costs (including benefits) for the 2017-18 school year as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction ( We estimate the cost of central administrative City Connects staff to be an additional 10% of the sub-total. To estimate the per-participant cost, we divide this total cost by the number of students served in a typical City Connects program, as reported in the included study.
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

Walsh, M.E., Madaus, G.F., Raczek, A.E., Dearing, E., Foley, C., An, C., . . . Beaton, A. (2014). A new model for student support in high-poverty urban elementary schools: Effects on elementary and middle school academic outcomes. American Educational Research Journal, 51(4), 704-737.