Historically, April 15 is tax day (although in 2011, it is April 18 )–the day taxes are due to the revenue departments.

State legislatures are dealing with budgets and Congress is trying to balance a  Federal budget.

Everywhere one looks, money is the issue–this is especially true in these recession ridden time.  How does all this relate to evaluation, you ask?  This is the topic for today’s blog.  How does money figure into evaluation.

Let’s start with the simple and move to the complex.  Everything costs–and although I’m talking about money, time, personnel, and resources  (like paper, staples, electricity, etc.)  must also be taken into consideration.

When we talk about evaluation, four terms typically come to mind:  efficacy, effectiveness, efficiency, and fidelity.

Efficiency is the term that addresses money or costs.  Was the program efficient in its use of resources?  That is the question asked addressing efficiency.

To answer that question, there are three (at least) approaches that are used to address this question:

  1. Cost  or cost analysis;
  2. Cost effectiveness analysis; and
  3. Cost-benefit analysis.

Simply then:

  1. Cost analysis is the number of dollars it takes to deliver the program, including salary of the individual(s) planning the program.
  2. Cost effectiveness analysis is a computation of the target outcomes in an appropriate unit in ratio to the costs.
  3. Cost-benefit analysis is also a ratio of the costs of outcomes to the benefits of the program measured in the same units, usually money.

How are these computed?

  1. Cost can be measured by how much the consumer is willing to pay.  Costs can be the value of each resource that is consumed in the implementation of the program.  Or cost analysis can be “measuring costs so they can be related to procedures and outcomes” (Yates, 1996, p. 25).   So you list the money spent to implement the program, including salaries, and that is a cost analysis.  Simple.
  2. Cost effectiveness analysis says that there is some metric in which the outcomes are measured (number of times hands are washed during the day, for example) and that is put in ratio of the total costs of the program.  So movement from washing hands only once a day (a bare minimum) to washing hands at least six times a day would have the costs of the program (including salaries) divided by the changed number of times hands are washed a day (i.e., 5).  The resulting value is the cost-effectiveness analysis.  Complex.
  3. Cost-benefit analysis puts the outcomes in the same metric as the costs–in this case dollars.  The costs  (in dollars) of the program (including salaries) are put in ratio to the  outcomes (usually benefits) measured in dollars.  The challenge here is assigning a dollar amount to the outcomes.  How much is frequent hand washing worth? It is often measured in days saved from communicable/chronic/ acute  illnesses.  Computations of health days (reduction in days affected by chronic illness) is often difficult to value in dollars.  There is a whole body of literature in health economics for this topic, if you’re interested.  Complicated and complex.

Yates, B. T. (1996).  Analyzing costs, procedures, processes, and outcomes in human services.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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