Many Americans seem convinced that government programs designed to help the poor have failed. Social Programs That Work shows that this is not true. Many programs have demonstrably improved the lives of people trapped at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Social Programs That Work provides an in-depth look at some of the nation's best interventions over the past few decades, and considers their potential for national expansion.
Examined here are programs designed to improve children's reading skills, curb juvenile delinquency and substance abuse, and move people off welfare into the workforce. Each contributor discusses the design and implementation of a particular program, and assesses how well particular goals were met. Among the critical issues addressed: Are good results permanent, or do they fade over time? Can they be replicated successfully under varied conditions? Are programs cost effective, and if so are the benefits seen immediately or only over the long term? How can public support be garnered for a large upfront investment whose returns may not be apparent for years? Some programs discussed in this volume were implemented only on a small, experimental scale, prompting discussion of their viability at the national level.
An important concern for social policy is whether one-shot programs can lead to permanent results. Early interventions may be extremely effective at reducing future criminal behavior, as shown by the results of the High/Scope Perry preschool program. Evidence from the Life Skills Training Program suggests that a combination of initial intervention and occasional booster sessions can be an inexpensive and successful approach to reducing adolescent substance abuse. Social Programs That Work also acknowledges that simply placing welfare recipients in jobs isn't enough; they will also need long-term support to maintain those jobs.
The successes and failures of social policy over the last thirty-five years have given us valuable feedback about the design of successful social policy. Social Programs That Work represents a landmark attempt to use social science criteria to identify and strengthen the programs most likely to make a real difference in addressing the nation's social ills.
JONATHAN CRANE is director of the National Center for Research on Social Programs in Chicago, Illinois.
CONTRIBUTORS: Clancy Blair, Gilbert J. Bovin, Frances A. Campbell, Patricia Chamberlain, Barbara Devaney, Marcella Dianda, Lawrence J. Dolan, Phyllis L. Ellickson, George Farkas, Nancy A. Madden, Lawrence M. Mead, Kevin Moore, Craig T. Ramey, Arthur J. Reynolds, Steven M. Ross, Lawrence J. Schweinhart, Robert E. Slavin, Lana J. Smith, Barbara A. Wasik, David P. Weikart.