A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR POLICY ANALYSIS* Christine H. Rossell Boston University 1991 * I am indebted to Scott Osberg and Karen Kispert for comments on an earlier version of this paper. A revised version of this paper was published as “Using Multiple Criteria to Evaluate Public Policies: the Case of School Desegregation,” American Politics Quarterly, 21 (2) April 1993: 155-184.
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1 A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR POLICY ANALYSIS IntroductionThe 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 overview). 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 their title. I would argue that there is, or should be, a common thread throughout these studies that distinguishes policyanalysis from politicalanalysis of the policymaking process. Policy analysis is interested in policy content first. The process is important, of course, but primarily because it helps us to understand the content of a policy