Congress Writes a Law: Research and Welfare Reform

Ron Haskins, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 10:4 (Fall 1991).


This paper traces the development of the Family Support Act of 1988 in the U.S. House of Representatives. The author, a Republican staff member, examines the impact of research on the policy environment that made welfare reform possible, on the arguments presented in committee hearings and bill-writing sessions, on the House debate, and on the final House/Senate Conference Committee approval. He concludes that social science research can and does play a useful role in formulation of public policy, although the domain of application is not as broad as many scholars think. However, given the partisan nature of policy formulation and the desire of social scientists to join the process, normal methods of quality control in social science research are too often forgotten, to the detriment of sound public decision-making.