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Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Benefit-Cost Results

Since the 1990s, the Washington State legislature has directed WSIPP to identify “evidence-based” policies. The goal is to provide Washington policymakers and budget writers with a list of well-researched public policies that can, with a high degree of certainty, lead to better statewide outcomes coupled with a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Research Approach. WSIPP has developed a three-step process to draw conclusions about what works and what does not to achieve particular outcomes of legislative interest. First, we systematically assess all high-quality studies from the United States and elsewhere to identify policy options that have been tested and found to achieve improvements in outcomes. Second, we determine how much it would cost Washington taxpayers to produce the results found in Step 1, and calculate how much it would be worth to people in Washington State to achieve the improved outcome. That is, in dollars and cents terms, we compare the benefits and costs of each policy option. It is important to note that the benefit-cost estimates pertain specifically to Washington State; results will vary from state to state. Third, we assess the risk in the estimates to determine the odds that a particular policy option will at least break even. ...show more

WSIPP acknowledges the MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts that have helped fund some of the research reported on this page.

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For details on our benefit-cost methods, contact Michael Hirsch or download our technical documentation.

Latest Results. The tables on this webpage present our current findings for a variety of public policy topics. Items on these tables are updated periodically as new information becomes available. Interested readers can find more information by clicking each entry in the tables.

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Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2019

Current estimates replace old estimates. Numbers will change over time as a result of model inputs and monetization methods.

Research Area Program name
(click on the program name for more detail)
Date of last literature review
Total benefits
Taxpayer benefits
Non-taxpayer benefits
Costs
Benefits minus costs (net present value)
Benefit to cost ratio
Chance benefits will exceed costs
Pre-K to 12 Education Mar. 2020 $20,806 $4,545 $16,261 ($93) $20,713 $223.03 81 %
Adult Mental Health May. 2014 ($3,456) ($1,048) ($2,408) $0 ($3,456) n/a 29 %
Adult Mental Health May. 2014 $6,132 $2,445 $3,687 ($3,647) $2,485 $1.68 79 %
Substance Use Disorders May. 2014 $3,500 $783 $2,717 ($2,920) $580 $1.20 49 %
Higher Education Dec. 2016 $1,912 $477 $1,434 ($814) $1,098 $2.35 53 %
Higher Education Dec. 2016 $15,412 $3,162 $12,250 ($100) $15,312 $154.33 89 %
Public Health & Prevention Jan. 2019 $1,159 $266 $892 ($10) $1,148 $113.93 100 %
Substance Use Disorders May. 2014 $948 $283 $665 ($76) $872 $12.48 65 %
Public Health & Prevention Aug. 2015 ($711) ($224) ($487) ($57) ($767) ($12.51) 45 %
Adult Criminal Justice Nov. 2016 $11,630 $3,087 $8,543 ($2,283) $9,347 $5.09 64 %
Adult Criminal Justice Nov. 2016 $10,655 $3,200 $7,454 ($3,930) $6,725 $2.71 58 %
Adult Criminal Justice Nov. 2016 $17,176 $5,086 $12,089 ($5,290) $11,886 $3.25 66 %
Pre-K to 12 Education Apr. 2020 $7,665 $1,838 $5,827 ($1,539) $6,126 $4.98 60 %
Substance Use Disorders Sep. 2016 $2,397 $742 $1,656 ($283) $2,114 $8.46 72 %
Substance Use Disorders Sep. 2016 $1,873 $572 $1,301 ($167) $1,706 $11.24 66 %
Public Health & Prevention Dec. 2014 $2,331 $702 $1,629 ($108) $2,223 $21.55 96 %
Public Health & Prevention Mar. 2018 ($28,837) $736 ($29,573) ($65,170) ($94,007) ($0.44) 0 %
Workforce Development Nov. 2015 $2,375 $1,399 $976 ($541) $1,834 $4.39 67 %
Substance Use Disorders Sep. 2016 $2,325 $757 $1,568 ($451) $1,874 $5.16 57 %
Adult Mental Health Sep. 2016 $1,657 $2,697 ($1,039) ($6,064) ($4,407) $0.27 34 %
Public Health & Prevention Dec. 2014 $393 $100 $294 ($40) $354 $9.91 55 %
Public Health & Prevention Mar. 2019 $276 $94 $181 ($101) $175 $2.73 53 %
Public Health & Prevention Aug. 2017 $5,776 $1,925 $3,850 ($4,188) $1,588 $1.38 52 %
Juvenile Justice Aug. 2017 $795 $495 $300 ($2,184) ($1,389) $0.36 47 %
Juvenile Justice Aug. 2017 $35,499 $8,435 $27,063 ($4,890) $30,609 $7.26 99 %
Health Care Dec. 2016 $2,832 $181 $2,651 $1,138 $3,970 n/a 94 %
Public Health & Prevention May. 2018 ($8,400) ($1,662) ($6,738) ($1,549) ($9,949) ($5.42) 16 %
Public Health & Prevention May. 2018 ($8,832) ($1,662) ($7,170) ($2,412) ($11,244) ($3.66) 12 %
Juvenile Justice Feb. 2019 $14,547 $4,487 $10,060 ($12,403) $2,144 $1.17 55 %
Juvenile Justice May. 2019 ($14,956) ($3,755) ($11,201) ($309) ($15,265) ($48.45) 2 %
Juvenile Justice May. 2019 $10,760 $2,670 $8,090 $1,276 $12,036 n/a 84 %
Adult Criminal Justice Aug. 2014 ($2,211) ($419) ($1,792) ($1,504) ($3,715) ($1.47) 24 %
Juvenile Justice Jul. 2019 $20,788 $6,080 $14,708 ($6,838) $13,949 $3.04 79 %

Other topics reviewed; benefit-cost results not yet available:

Research Area Program name
(click on the program name for more detail)
Date of last literature review Notes
Public Health & Prevention
Curriculum-Based Support Group (CBSG)
Apr. 2018 Click for meta-analytic results
Juvenile Justice
Equipping Youth to Help Each Other (EQUIP) for youth in state institutions NEW
Jun. 2019 Click for meta-analytic results
Child Welfare
Fostering Healthy Futures
Aug. 2017 Click for meta-analytic results
Child Welfare
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) for child abuse and neglect
Aug. 2017 Click for meta-analytic results
Public Health & Prevention
Postponing Sexual Involvement (c)
Apr. 2012 Click for meta-analytic results
Child Welfare
Project KEEP
Aug. 2017 Click for meta-analytic results
Public Health & Prevention
Project SHOUT (Students Helping Others Understand Tobacco) NEW
Jan. 2019 Click for meta-analytic results
Public Health & Prevention
School-based sexual education
Apr. 2012 Click for meta-analytic results
Public Health & Prevention
Teen Outreach Program
Apr. 2012 Click for meta-analytic results
Adult Criminal Justice
Therapeutic communities for individuals with personality disorders
Dec. 2016 Click for meta-analytic results
Adult Mental Health
Peer Bridger
May. 2014 No rigorous evaluation measuring outcome of interest.
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