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Presidential address: From the Great Society to continuous improvement government: Shifting from “does it work?” to “what would make it better?”

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  • Douglas J. Besharov

    (University of Maryland School of Public Policy)

Abstract

In the 1960s, various social programs were started (like Head Start) or dramatically expanded (like AFDC). Loosely, this period of expansion is called the Great Society. Too many Great Society social programs, unfortunately, have been disappointments-at least when compared to the high hopes of the '60s. Even if they “work,” most of us wish that they worked much better. Some people take such statements to mean that the Great Society's social programs should be defunded. Most Great Society programs, however, are surely here to stay, for they serve important social functions. How many of us really think there could be an America without a social safety net? It is now time to do the difficult and unglamorous work of systematic program improvement. Instead of testing program efficacy over and over again, we should engage in ongoing and evidence-based efforts to increase program effectiveness (in both large and small ways). © 2009 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas J. Besharov, 2009. "Presidential address: From the Great Society to continuous improvement government: Shifting from “does it work?” to “what would make it better?”," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(2), pages 199-220.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:28:y:2009:i:2:p:199-220
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20423
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jens Ludwig & Douglas L. Miller, 2007. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 159-208.
    2. Currie, Janet & Thomas, Duncan, 1995. "Does Head Start Make a Difference?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 341-364, June.
    3. Aaron, Henry J, 1989. "Politics and the Professors Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 1-15, May.
    4. Manning, Willard G, et al, 1987. "Health Insurance and the Demand for Medical Care: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 251-277, June.
    5. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
    6. Richard P. Nathan, 2005. "Presidential address: “Complexifying” performance oversight in America's governments," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 207-215.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lukas Fervers, 2016. "Fast track to the labour market or highway to hell? The effect of activation policies on quantity and quality of labour market integration," IAW Discussion Papers 125, Institut für Angewandte Wirtschaftsforschung (IAW).

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