An economic method for formulating better policies for positive child development

Matthew Manning, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University
Ross Homel, Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice & Governance, Griffith University
Christine Smith, Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics, Griffith University


Social scientists and education, health and human service practitioners recognise the benefits of primary prevention and early intervention compared with remedial alternatives. A recent meta-analytic review of early childhood prevention programs conducted by the authors demonstrates good returns on investment well beyond the early years, into and beyond adolescence. There are two methodological deficiencies in the current prevention literature: (1) the limited tools available to assist when making choices on resource allocation and engaging in a structured decision-making process with respect to alternative policy options for early prevention; (2) the absence of a rigorous tool for measuring the economic impact of early prevention programs on salient aspects of non health-related quality of life. This paper examines traditional economic methods of evaluation used to assess early prevention programs, and outlines a new method, adapted from the Analytical Hierarchy Process, that can be used to address these deficiencies.

Matthew Manning <> is an economist in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University. Matthew has interests and experience in applied microeconomics, decision analysis, operations research, systematic and meta-analytic reviews, health economics, and economic analysis techniques (for example, cost-benefit analysis). Ross Homel, <> Foundation Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, is a specialist in prevention science. In May 2008 he was recognised as a ‘Queensland Great’ ‘for his contribution to Queensland’s reputation for research excellence, the development of social policy and justice reform and helping Queensland’s disadvantaged communities’, and in November 2010 received the American Society of Criminology Sellin-Glueck Award for criminological scholarship outside the United States. Christine Smith <> is a Professor of Economics in the Griffith Business School. She is currently the Head of the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics. Her areas of research interest include regional and urban economics, policy evaluation and conflict management.

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