States of innovation | Pew Charitable Trusts

Making a difference through data-driven policy making

By: Susan K. Urahn

In a recent science interview for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ podcast, “After the Fact,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, “Policy shouldn’t be made in an area without data.” It succinctly articulated an approach that Pew has long strived to advance: This policy informed by rigorous data and research makes government more efficient and helps it to serve the public interest better.

“The good news is that there are ideas that work, and a lot can be found in the United States.”

The ability of government to function effectively and at what scale is often debated, of course, especially during election years. But there is good news. The pandemic has increased the visibility of evidence-based policy making as well as tools such as ‘data dashboards’, which provide integrated views of key information at a glance for officials and officials. citizens. These approaches are proven methods used by governors of both political parties that rely on data and evaluation to measure results and determine which programs are producing results – the ideas that make a difference. So, over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting what we call ‘states of innovation’ – brief case studies of evidence-based policies that offer viable solutions to long-standing problems that may perhaps inspire others.

One example is criminal justice reform. Louisiana and Kansas have both implemented significant reforms to their criminal justice systems. In Louisiana, a bipartisan package of bills keeps people convicted of less serious crimes out of jail while strengthening alternatives to incarceration. In 2018, the number of people jailed in Louisiana for non-violent offenses fell 20%, saving the state nearly $ 18 million. In 2016, Kansas overhauled its juvenile justice system, after seeing juvenile arrests cut in half in a decade without a corresponding drop in the number of young people in residential facilities. State leaders have turned to evidence-based alternatives that include a focus on high-risk minors, limits on sending young people to institutions, and more resources to safely monitor minors at risk. their home.

Another example is the payday loan reform. Two years ago, Ohio passed the Fairness in Lending Act. At the time, Ohio had the most expensive payday loans in the United States. But under this new legislation, the monthly payments are limited to 6% of the borrower’s gross monthly income. Today, a three-month $ 400 loan will cost an Ohio borrower no more than $ 109. Before the law was passed, that same loan would have cost three times that amount.

Virginia created the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund to help communities purchase flood-prone properties, restore floodplains, and install living shores of natural plants and other materials to control erosion and protect habitat. . And Wyoming is responding to the challenge of animal migration by building corridors to help wildlife cross major highways safely and to protect drivers and their passengers.

Evidence-based policy making is not just a tool for finding new solutions to difficult challenges. When states fulfill their traditional role as laboratories of innovation, they strengthen the confidence of the American people that any government they choose, no matter how small, can be effective, responsive, and in the public interest.

Susan K. Urahn is President and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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