The federal government has great difficulty in running effective programs. For example, scientifically rigorous national studies almost unanimously find that federal social programs, such as Head Start and multiple job-training programs, fail to yield meaningful benefits to participants.
Yet, some small-scale social programs have been found to be effective. When these promising social programs are identified, the immediate assumption among many policy advocates is that the success of the programs can be replicated and “scaled-up” by the federal government.
However, we often do not truly know why an apparently effective program worked in the first place. So how can we replicate it? Understanding why government fails so frequently – and how it might become more effective and less costly – is an important topic that needs to be addressed.