Public policy analysis is the monitoring of different government agendas that directly affect a specific community. The kinds of topics examined can vary from the impact of infrastructure on a city to smoking laws. The idea behind public policy analysis is to provide the government with facts and statistics about the extent to which such initiatives are working.
Legislators who seek to pass specific laws and government officials who work toward their application may be particularly interested in public policy analysis. This is often because, when social problems arise, it is up to such policy makers to find proper solutions. Vandalism, poor student performance in schools, high crime rates, environmental problems, and traffic collisions are some of the many examples of problems that are often addressed in this way. To determine which policies are not meeting goals, a public policy analysis goes through several steps.
Policy analysts usually begin by collecting evidence of the problem. This can include conducting public opinion surveys, speaking with experts in related fields, or examining specific cases. Gathering statistics is usually the most reliable way to learn how the majority of the population feels about the issue.
The next phase of analysis is typically identifying the causes of a problem. If the reasons behind a certain social problem can be learned, government officials can often adjust laws in order to help eliminate the issue. There may be numerous factors that contribute to a social problem. For example, drunk driving by teenagers can be affected by peer pressure, easy access to alcohol and advertisements promoting its consumption.
Once evidence has been gathered about the nature of a problem and its causes, analysts use it to evaluate the effectiveness of the specific policy. Both the strengths and weaknesses of a policy are usually analyzed in order to determine what parts of it need to be kept, changed, or replaced altogether. In this way, negative outcomes can be reduced and solutions can be proposed.
A doctoral degree, or PhD, in public policy is typically required for work as a public policy analyst. Students who study this course often learn how to use statistical information and economical theories to evaluate the effectiveness of various policies. Students in graduate courses often meet community leaders to learn first-hand how policies are developed and implemented. Students may concentrate in specific areas, such as health policy, urban and community development, policy management and implementation.