Using the “Rational Actor” Approach

Richard Hoefer

in Policy Creation and Evaluation

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199735198
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918560 | DOI:

Series: Pocket Guides to Social Work Research Methods

Using the “Rational Actor” Approach

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This chapter is analyzes policy formation from the “rational actor” perspective. Perhaps more than any other policy approach, it is both commonly used and commonly attacked. Variations of the comprehensive rational approach, such as “bounded rationality,” have been developed to address common criticisms. A rational approach is often seen as the antithesis of the political model. In this chapter, we examine what is meant by the rational and bounded rationality models, how to use them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and apply the rational model to the creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, as passed in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act. We also examine the differences between users of the rational model and its variants in creating policy, on the one hand, and analyzing policy after the fact, on the other.

Keywords: policy analysis; rational actor model; TANF; social policy; bounded rationality

Chapter.  9928 words. 

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