Cost Analysis Standards Project (CASP)

To make well-informed choices about the policies and programs that impact people’s lives, decision makers need accurate, reliable, and actionable information. One crucial piece of that information is the effectiveness of a policy or program at improving intended outcomes. However, without information on the costs associated with program effectiveness, decision makers lack the evidence needed to optimize the use of limited resources to improve outcomes.

To advance the production of high-quality information on the economic costs and benefits of implementing educational and other social programs, Jesse Levin and Amanda Danks (AIR), Brooks Bowden (University of Pennsylvania), and Fiona Hollands (Teachers College, Columbia University) convened a panel of experts in designing and conducting economic evaluations of educational and social programs to develop the Standards for Economic Evaluation of Educational and Social Programs.

The intent of the standards is to make clear for researchers, funders, and consumers of research (both policymakers and practitioners) what constitutes rigorous economic evaluations of educational and social programs. This document includes standards for cost analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and cost-benefit analysis. To increase the quality of information for decision makers, the expert panel set out to accomplish the following goals:

  • Provide guidance to researchers on the elements of a rigorous economic evaluation as they design and conduct program evaluations.
  • Direct researchers toward consistent practices that promote transparency and comparability across economic evaluations.
  • Develop standards that consumers of research can use to evaluate economic evaluations, including research proposals, study plans, and reported results.

The CASP standards were developed for the field to ensure that economic evaluations of educational and social programs are both rigorous and comparable. The standards provide clear guidelines for researchers designing and conducting economic evaluations of educational and social policies and programs. Funders and consumers of research can also use these standards to assess whether research is rigorous and identify the risks when specific standards are not met.