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. To the extent possible, you’ll also want to assess the quality of the research. The following materials can help you get a grip on basic cost-benefit concepts, as well as figure out what to look for in a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and what to investigate further.
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.