Indiana Study Suggests Faith-Based Organizations Not Necessarily Effective

May 25, 2003

Source: The Washington Post

On May 25, 2003 The Washington Post reported that "the assumption behind President Bush's faith-based initiative is that religious charities can do a better job, at a lower cost, than secular organizations in providing many social services, from drug treatment to employment training. But an Indiana study suggests it isn't necessarily so... The study by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis is among the first attempts to compare the effectiveness of faith-based and secular organizations using objective data... The researchers looked at 2,830 people who went through job training programs run by 27 government-funded organizations in two Indiana counties. They found no difference between secular and religious programs in job placement rates or starting wages. But clients of faith-based groups worked fewer hours, on average, and were less likely to receive health insurance... 'It's a surprising result,' said principal investigator Sheila S. Kennedy, an associate professor of law and public policy. 'All the political rhetoric beforehand was: Everybody knows faith-based organizations are better...' Kennedy warned against drawing broad conclusions from the relatively narrow study, which was based on the first two years' data in a three-year project funded by the Ford Foundation. It reflects the experience in two urban areas -- Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, and Lake County, which includes Gary, Ind. It used state-reported statistics on 11 religious and 16 secular job training programs in 2000-2002."