The nongovernmental organization New Economy, in partnership with the UK government, recently released a database of more than 600 cost estimates. This unit cost database—available at the Centre for Social Impact Bonds—covers crime, education and skills, employment and economy, fire, health, housing, and social services. Most are national costs derived from government reports and academic studies.
The private sector uses one metric—profit—to determine whether an investment is worthwhile. The public sector, in contrast, cannot determine whether government programs are worth the money by using only one measure. Answering how much we should we spend on public goods—such as health, education, justice, and social services—is a difficult task, and one we face every year.