From New Zealand to Pittsburgh, a Moneyball Approach to Helping Troubled Kids

In New Zealand, the ruling National Party pioneered a novel approach: Use data analytics to determine where spending can be most effective. In 2010, when Minister of Finance Bill English first convened a policy group to review welfare spending, government statistics showed half the 4,300 teenage single mothers receiving benefits in that country were likely to remain in the welfare system for 20 years, at a total cost of about $264,000 each. The government responded with $23 million to assign individual case workers to help teenage mothers finish school and find work. Now, after four years, the number of teenage single parents on benefits has dropped to 2,600.

In the US, government agencies and private nonprofits such as Eckerd, which provides public child and family services on a contract basis, also use data to develop proprietary models for identifying children at high risk for abuse.

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