Equity in cost-benefit analysis

30 April 2021 Vol 372, Issue 6541


Equity in cost-benefit analysis
By Robert W. Hahn
One key way that many governments around the world incorporate scientific research into policy-making is through cost-benefit analysis (CBA). But despite well-established practices for rigorous estimation of the pros and cons of policies, there is room to improve, particularly in characterizing difficult-to-measure benefits and the distribution of the costs and benefits across different segments of society. In this regard, announcements by US President Biden, if brought to fruition, could have far-reaching implications for how CBA is used in government decision-making. But such promising (and familiar) rhetoric is no guarantee of real progress, and the devil, as always, is in the details. These details are where the scientific community has an important role to play to improve the use of CBA and to hold the administration accountable.