A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR POLICY ANALYSIS
The field of policy analysis has produced a literature so diverse in focus and analytical tools that Bobrow
and Dryzek (1987:5) call it a "a babel of tongues."
These works can be roughly divided into two major categories:
prescriptive analyses and descriptive-predictive analyses.
The prescriptive analyses seek to improve the
policymaking process by rationalizing the selection of policy alternatives so that government policies and
programs are best able to achieve their goals.
This branch of policy analysis, largely dominated by welfare
economics, relies heavily on such quantitative techniques as cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis,
public choice models, decision analysis, and linear programming (see Stokey and Zeckhauser, 1978 for an
The descriptive-predictive analyses, typically conducted by political scientists, attempt to make sense out
of and to evaluate the policies and programs that have already been implemented.
They can be divided into 1)
attempts at classifying policies into different categories (i.e. distributive, redistributive, and regulatory as in Lowi,
1964; Salisbury, 1968; Salisbury and Heinz, 1970, and Uslaner, 1982); 2) quantitative and qualitative analyses of
factors related to policy expenditures and characteristics across cities, school districts, states, and nations as in
Cnudde and McCrone, 1969; Hofferbert, 1966; Lewis-Beck, 1977; Lineberry and Fowler, 1967; Matthews and
Prothro, 1964; Sharkansky and Hofferbert, 1969; Rossell and Crain, 1982; Heidenheimer, Heclo and Adams,
1990); 3) analyses of the implementation of public policies and the factors likely to lead to implementation as the
legislation and regulations intended, as in Pressman and Wildavsky, 1973; Nakamura and Smallwood, 1980;
Mazmanian and Sabatier, 1983; 4) theoretical works on the field itself and its important concepts (most recently,
Stone, 1988; Bobrow and Dryzek, 1987) ; and 5) a host of studies of the policymaking process which differ little
from what used to be called political science or the study of politics except that they have the word "policy" in
I would argue that there is, or should be, a common thread throughout these studies that distinguishes
analysis from political
analysis of the policymaking process.
Policy analysis is interested in policy content
The process is important, of course, but primarily because it helps us to understand the content of a policy