Last week we announced the release of a new CBKB white paper, Advancing the Quality of Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Programs. Analysts, researchers, analysts, and criminologists will find useful information about cost-benefit analysis (CBA) methods, evaluation techniques, and justice-specific applications of this technique.
Even if you don’t plan to dive into the details, take a look at these six principles that serve as the paper’s foundation:
- Cost-benefit analysis is a decision tool, not a decision rule.
Note: In April 2014 we published the white paper Using Cost-Benefit Analysis for Justice Policymaking. It is intended for a diverse audience, including journalists; elected officials and their staff; policymakers; people who work in adult or juvenile justice systems; and service providers.
When you’re reporting or writing about a cost-benefit study, it’s your job to extract the most important findings and decipher them for your audience, a group that’s probably not made up of analysts and economists.
Writing about cost-benefit analysis is hard. Writing or reporting about it on deadline is even harder. How do you tease out a study’s most important findings to tell a story your audience will care about and grasp?
For starters, here are three mistakes to avoid when reporting on cost-benefit results:
- Don’t equate benefits and savings.
We’re always on the lookout for new publications about cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and criminal justice. Here are a few recent CBAs of note:
Juneau County Diversion Program: A Benefit-Cost Analysis
In January, a group of graduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison under the guidance of Professor David Weimer published a CBA of the Juneau County (WI) Diversion Program.
This month we’ll feature a series of blog posts addressing misperceptions about cost-benefit analysis (CBA). On the blog, in the CBA toolkit, and in other materials, we’ve written about some concepts that frequently confuse people or are commonly misunderstood, such as:
- Cost avoidance and cost savings are not the same.
- Taxpayer benefits don’t always result in cost savings.
Cost-benefit analysts typically use one of several metrics—or a combination of them—to report their findings. The benefit-cost ratio, return on investment, and net present value report the results of a cost-benefit analysis by comparing discounted costs with discounted benefits. This document briefly describes each metric, the information it conveys, and its advantages for reporting cost-benefit findings.