Following the Money: Using Expenditure Analysis as an Evaluation Tool
This article describes the nature and utility of fiscal analysis in evaluating complex community interventions. Using New York University's evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Health Initiative as an example, the authors describe issues arising in defining and operationalizing constructs for fiscal analysis. The approach's utility is demonstrated in the use of interim findings to help redefine the program's goals for resource allocation, to modify its theory of change to include greater emphasis on state-level action, and to emphasize the importance of local public schools as resource centers and intervention targets. The fiscal analysis also provides new insights into the limitations of "preventive" versus "corrective" spending categories and helps make goals for such functional reallocation more realistic. The authors discuss limitations of fiscal analysis due to available data quality, the extent of cooperation needed from public officials to collect relevant data, and the level of expertise needed to interpret the data.