Evaluative Criteria in Policy Making

Evaluative Criteria in Policy Making

Policymaking is a complex process. Various alternatives confront policymakers during the policymaking process. The evaluation criteria ordinarily depend on the combination of various values and facts available for a specific policy. The policymakers may look at the qualities or principles that the community holds as intrinsically valuable while making policy decisions. For instance, policymakers may settle on a particular policy based on its fairness to all individuals. The evaluation criteria outline the specific values that a particular policy should fulfill. Policymakers may rely on single evaluative criteria or opt for more than one depending on the circumstances. This paper examines the applicability of different evaluative criteria including economic costs, efficiency, policy effectiveness, and equity.

As earlier mentioned, policymakers may opt for a particular evaluative criteria depending on the context or circumstances surrounding the policy decision. As such, there is no ‘standard’ evaluation criterion to apply across all situations. Policymakers use a number of evaluative criteria to make justifications for the application of particular policies (Kraft & Furlong, 2012). The first evaluative criterion is efficiency. Efficiency is a measure that looks at the program goals vis-a-vis the costs. The measure aims at establishing whether the program benefits outweigh the costs. Efficiency aims at ensuring that scarce resources are allocated to their best uses. It measures how various inputs such as time, equipment, funds, expertise, and others are utilized.

The second evaluative criterion is policy effectiveness. This criterion examines the extent to which a particular intervention’s objectives are achieved (Kraft & Furlong, 2012). In other words, effectiveness measures the achievement of goals and objectives of the project. Every project or policy aims to achieve specific objectives. Policymakers may opt to scrap a particular policy or project basing on its effectiveness. If the policy is unable to achieve its effectiveness, then there are higher chances it may face elimination. Policymakers may also measure whether there is a possibility of achieving certain goals and objectives through implementation of particular policies in future. If the probability is low, such policies may be dismissed in the earlier stages.


Another important evaluative criterion is equity. Equity refers to fairness or justice of the particular processes or the outcomes of particular decisions (Kraft & Furlong, 2012). Equity ensures that all subgroups share equally the benefits and any costs arising from a particular policy intervention. From Chapter 6, equity has two dimensions in the policymaking process. The first dimension involves ensuring that the decision making process is fair among all participants. The second dimension examines the fairness of the results of the decisions made. Equity is important because it ensures that all policy interventions affect all subgroups or particular populations in a fair way. It ensures that all subgroups experience fair treatment and that none is disadvantaged through enactment of new policy interventions.

Another important criterion is social acceptability. This refers to the extent to which the public supports a particular policy intervention (Kraft & Furlong, 2012). Public support is critical because most of public policy interventions affect the citizens. As such, their opinions or support of the policy is critical. Another important criterion is sustainability. Sustainability refers to the possibility of continuing the policy intervention even after the key development assistance ceases. Financial sustainability is of great significance to any policy intervention. Sustainability is the ability of various stakeholders to maintain the intervention benefits. Other evaluative criteria include impact, relevance, technical feasibility, administrative feasibility, political feasibility, liberty, and among others.

It is true that some criteria are more important for certain kings of policy questions than for others. From Chapter 6, it is clear that policy analysts are interested in identifying whether one alternative is better than another in addressing a particular policy question. Policy analysts prefer using a criterion that is line with a set of given circumstances and that align to a policy area. For instance, policy analysts are more likely to apply efficiency as an evaluation criterion in developing of regulatory policies and evaluation of market-based approaches. Equity as an evaluative criterion would best fit policy questions relating to civil rights, access to education, access to health services, equality in taxation, and disability rights. Social acceptability as an evaluative criterion would best fit enactment of controversial policies that touch on the lives of all citizens, such as crime control measures, right to abort, and among others. It might not make sense to evaluate a controversial policy that touches on the lives of all citizens in a community basing on efficiency. Similarly, it might not make sense to evaluate the decision to apply taxes basing on political feasibility.

To conclude, evaluative criteria in policy making are critical in helping analyze the suitability of a particular policy intervention. There are different evaluative criteria depending on the set of circumstances and the policy area under consideration. Common evaluative criteria include equity, efficiency, policy effectiveness, sustainability, social acceptability, and among others. Policy analysts must weigh the different criteria and settle on the logical criterion.


Chapter 6

Kraft, M. E., Furlong, S. R., (2012). 5th Ed. Public policy: Politics, analysis, and alternatives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Public Policy