"Conservatives will hate this
book for assuming that well-designed social programs are an
essential part of a humane society. Liberals will hate it
for assuming that the needy often bring their troubles on
themselves and would behave better if the government stopped
subsidizing such behavior. But if, perchance, you want to
make the American welfare state either more affordable or
more politically palatable to a suspicious public, you
should read this book, ponder it, and give it to a friend."
Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at
"Targeting in Social Programs is a valuable contribution to the literature on public policy. Schuck and Zeckhauser do not push for any particular policy; instead they present a detailed approach
to improving the efficiency of any social program. This
hard-hitting, analytically rigorous book should be welcomed by conservatives and liberals alike. It deserves a wide audience among designers, administrators, and students of public programs."
Fuchs, Henry J.
Kaiser Jr. Professor Emeritus, Stanford University
and Zeckhauser's Targeting in Social Programs in
clear prose makes the case for predictive targeting as a
center piece of welfare legislation. Their revolution has
already begun. Predictive targeting has radically improved
the benefit cost ratio of unemployment training programs.
But much work still needs to be
done. Targeting in Social Programs
shows why failing to attend to bad apples and bad bets is
likely to rob many programs of their net utility and
- Ian Ayres,
William K. Townsend Professor, Yale Law
School. Read the full
"Now Peter Schuck and Richard Zeckhauser
have given a solid analytic underpinning to the business of
reforming the reforms of earlier eras, in a remarkably
clear-headed and good-hearted little book....Together, the
pair pretty well exemplify the "militant middle," in the
title of one of Schuck's earlier books, except insofar as
their ambition to ameliorate social ills through public
policy also puts them in the present-day van of the long
tradition of American social reform stretching back to Louis
Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes."
- David Warsh, Editor of
economicprincipals.com. Read the full review
The Wall Street Journal 06/25/07:
(subscription required for
full text, sample below)
More bad apples:
"When school started last August, veteran first-grade
teacher Patricia McDermott made sure to place one student,
8-year-old Andrea Gavern, in a seat beside her own desk.
Andrea suffers from a rare genetic condition called Williams
Syndrome, which causes learning disabilities and medical
ailments such as heart problems and difficulty eating.
Knowing that Andrea had disrupted her kindergarten classes a
year earlier, Ms. McDermott wanted to keep her new pupil
under close watch. The strategy backfired...."
The Wall Street Journal 05/16/07:
(subscription required for
full text, sample below)
A classic case of bad apples:
"When Eric Hainstock didn't get his way in kindergarten,
he told other children his father would kill them. In fifth
grade, he tried to spray a homemade concoction he called
blood into the mouths of classmates. In sixth grade, he
threatened others, fought, and talked 'about killing himself
Worried about these and other incidents recounted in
internal school reports, teachers and a school psychologist
recommended that Eric, who was diagnosed in second grade
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, get more
one-on-one attention, or be placed in a special private
school. Instead, he was one of millions of special-education
students mainstreamed in regular classes.
After Eric transferred to Weston Public School here in
2002, his grades plummeted and he was suspended frequently.
His only regular help with controlling his outbursts was a
weekly, half-hour social-skills class."
03/26/07: Schuck-Zeckhauser Op-Ed
published in Boston Globe!
Article is also highlighted by
The Guardian 12/31/2006: "Britain
'wasting talent of its brightest kids' "
NY Times 12/25/06: "The
Man on the Table Devised the Surgery"
Alan Morrison, Founder of the Public Citizen Litigation
Group and Senior Lecturer at Stanford Law School, comments
read your book and liked it very much. Surely you are right
as a matter of principle, just like Stephen Breyer was
right in his book on regulation where he pointed out that
the most expensive and least cost-beneficial part of
regulation was getting the last 5% (or whatever) out, and it
would be much better for the world to spend that last part
on getting the other 95%'s fixed instead of going for 100%.
The problems are different, but in both cases the issue is
how, in a diffused decision-making society, do we get people
to have enough vision to focus on these problems, instead of
the politically attractive slogans on the extremes? Thus,
whether I agree with your rather rosy assessment of welfare
reform (I see more holes than I think you do), I agree that
some kind of effort to deal with bad bets and bad apples (I
like your terminology) was necessary. I also fear that your
concerns about assuring that fewer mistakes are made will
not be part of any effort to get rid of bad apples (and
perhaps bad bets), and the issue then becomes, whether that
is better than the current system (and how does one measure
or even analyze) that?"
Peter Schuck responds: "Thanks very much for the
comments, with which I agree, including your fears -- though
I am a bit more optimistic than you are that the politics,
not just the merits, of the issue will assure due process
for the bad apples."
Reviews Targeting in Social Programs 12/01/06
Sample: "Overall I found the book's arguments
quite compelling....But if I have one problem with the book,
it is probably the moral judgments it implies about bad
apples. Yes, people have to take responsibility for their
actions. But as the
Unequal Childhoods literature is documenting,
disparities in everything from language skills to discipline
are so great from the "get-go" that it's hard to hold a
pauper to the same standards as a prince."
Peter Schuck responds: "I just don't know how bad
apples can be removed without inevitably stigmatizing them,
try as we should and must to make sure that we are judging
them fairly and accurately and rehabilitating them where
possible. I don't know what Slobogin's approach is (do you
have a cite?), but I doubt that he can square that
particular circle. We say very clearly that there are many
reasons why people become bad apples and that some no doubt
are beyond their control, but we insist that the priority
has to be protecting the also-disadvantaged good ones where,
as is often the case (and as is built into our definition of
bad apples), they are in a tragic, zero-sum game. If you
have occasion to discuss the book again, I hope that you
will make our position crystal clear rather than inviting
the charge, always a conversation-stopper, that we blame the
NY Times 11/15/06: "Judge
Says City Must Notify Legal Aid Society Before Evictions
Peter Schuck comments: "This is a
court ruling that the city cannot evict a homeless person
unless it first notifies lawyers at Legal Aid so that they
can intervene to protect the interests of the mentally ill
residents. Chalk up one more victory for some very bad
apples. I wish that we could have included this in the
NY Times 9/29/06: "Choosing
a 'God Squad', When the Mind has Faded"
Peter Schuck comments: "Bad bets!"
Who should be first in line for kidney transplants—the
relatively healthy or the severely ill? Should chronic
troublemakers be allowed to remain in public housing? Should
perpetually disruptive students stay in classes where they
can prevent other children from learning? Prominent legal
scholar Peter H. Schuck and leading economist Richard J.
Zeckhauser take on such vexing policy dilemmas in
Targeting in Social Programs: Avoiding Bad Bets, Removing
Schuck and Zeckhauser present a rigorous framework for
analyzing many of the difficult choices facing policymakers.
Most social programs seek to help "bad draws"—unfortunate,
often low-income individuals. Poor targeting of scarce
resources, however, often undermines both the effectiveness
of those policies and their political support. Many policy
failures occur when officials allocate these scarce
resources to two groups of bad draws: "bad bets," who will
derive substantially less benefit from the resources than
would other bad draws, and "bad apples," whose behavior in
the program imposes significant costs on other recipients.
The authors show how to identify bad bets and bad apples,
and how to treat them in ways that promote the greater
This tough-minded book raises the right questions, those
that society ignores at its peril, particularly to its less
fortunate members. The answers it provides and reforms it
suggests, though rarely easy and sometimes incomplete, will
point social policy in the right direction.