According to a recent funding solicitation for research grants by the National Institute of Justice, “applications that include cost/benefit analysis will be given priority. NIJ views cost/benefit analysis as an effective way to communicate and disseminate findings from evaluation research.” The state of Washington has mandated that programs that do not pass a cost-benefit test will not be funded. Yet, to date, cost-benefit analysis has not yet become a mainstream of the criminologists’ toolkit.
Is cost benefit analysis a useful tool for criminologists and policy analysts – or is it just “voodoo economics” - and another attempt by the dismal science to rule the world? This seminar will provide a basic understanding of the use (and misuse) of cost-benefit analysis to help you make an informed judgment about the efficacy of cost-benefit analysis and how you might begin to incorporate this tool into your research agenda. Among the questions to be addressed: (1) What is the underlying rationale for cost-benefit analysis in the criminal justice context? (2) Where do the numbers come from and what do they mean? (3) What are appropriate (and inappropriate) uses of cost-benefit analysis? and (4) What do the critics say?