Charitable Choice at Work

cover art
248 pp., 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 9781589011311 (1589011317)

248 pp., 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 9781589011328 (1589011325)

November 2006
LC: 2006006683

Public Management and Change series


Table of Contents

Charitable Choice at Work
Evaluating Faith-Based Job Programs in the States
Sheila Suess Kennedy and Wolfgang Bielefeld
Too often, say its critics, U.S. domestic policy is founded on ideology rather than evidence. Take "Charitable Choice": legislation enacted with the assumption that faith-based organizations can offer the best assistance to the needy at the lowest cost. The Charitable Choice provision of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act—buttressed by President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative of 2000—encouraged religious organizations, including congregations, to bid on government contracts to provide social services. But in neither year was data available to prove or disprove the effectiveness of such an approach.

Charitable Choice at Work fills this gap with a comprehensive look at the evidence for and against faith-based initiatives. Sheila Suess Kennedy and Wolfgang Bielefeld review the movement's historical context along with legal analysis of constitutional concerns including privatization, federalism, and separation of church and state. Using both qualitative and, where possible, statistical data, the authors analyze the performance of job placement programs in three states with a representative range of religious, political, and demographic traits—Massachusetts, Indiana, and North Carolina. Throughout, they focus on measurable outcomes as they compare non-faith-based with faith-based organizations, nonprofits with for-profits, and the logistics of contracting before and after Charitable Choice.

Among their findings: in states where such information is available, the composition of social service contractor pools has changed very little. Reflecting their varied political cultures, states have funded programs differently. Faith-based organizations have not been eager to seek government contracts, perhaps wary of additional legal restraints and reporting burdens.

The authors conclude that faith-based organizations appear no more effective than secular organizations at government-funded social service provision, that there has been no dramatic change in the social welfare landscape since Charitable Choice, and that the constitutional concerns of its detractors may be valid. This empirical study penetrates the fog of the culture wars, moving past controversy over the role of religion in public life to offer pragmatic suggestions for policymakers and organizations who must decide how best to assist the needy.
Sheila Suess Kennedy is associate professor of law and public policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. She previously served as executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union and is an associate editor of the scholarly journal Policy Sciences, a columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and author of several books including What's a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing at the ACLU?, Free Expression in America, and To Market, To Market: Reinventing Indianapolis (coauthored with Ingrid Ritche).

Wolfgang Bielefeld is professor of public affairs in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. He is the coeditor of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly and coauthor of Nonprofit Organizations in an Age of Uncertainty.
Beryl A. Radin, Series Editor
"One legacy of the faith-based initiative is the research and reflection it has inspired on religion and social services. This book combines close examination of Indiana's version of the faith-based initiative with informative discussion of the initiative's history and lively assessment of the constitutional issues it raises. It is an important contribution to the literature on the faith-based initiative's causes, consequences, and complexities. Beyond the faith-based initiative, Kennedy and Bielefeld deepen our understanding of religion's longstanding and ongoing role in our social welfare system."—Mark Chaves, professor of sociology, University of Arizona

Table of Contents

Part I: Setting the Stage
1. Introduction and Background: A New Faith in Faith
2. Asking the Right Questions

Part II: What We Have Learned
3. The Implementation of Charitable Choice in the States
4. The Role of Faith-Based Service Providers
5. The Management of Faith-Based Service Providers
6. Measuring Effectiveness
7. Constitutional Concerns

Part III: Summing Up
8. Talking Past Each Other

A: Methodology and Data
B: Survey Questions