The Sociologist as Policy Consultant
Sociological prediction can also help to estimate the probable effects of a social policy. Every social policy decision is a prediction. A policy (e.g., federal grants for Head Start) is begun in’ the hope that it will produce a desired effect (e.g., narrow the educational gap between poorer and more prosperous children). Policies have often failed because they embodied unsound assumptions ‘and predictions. Sociologists can help to predict the effects of a policy, and thus contribute to the selection of policies which achieve the intended purposes. For example: What effect does dropping out of high school have’ upon a youth’s future earnings? (Little or none, when other factors are equal.) What would be the effect of intensified law enforcement upon campus marijuana use? (Little or no reduction, with aggravation of other student-police problems.)
Would low birthrates and a small-family norm increase marital happiness? (Yes; there is research evidence that smaller families are better off in every way.) Would publishi~g the names of juvenile delinquents help to reduce delinquency? (No it would more likely increase it). Would the suppression of obscene literature help to reduce sex crimes and sex immorality? (Our limited evidence suggests that it would not.) Would legal barriers to abortion strengthen family life? (No; most sociologists believe this would increase Illegitimate births, unwanted children, child abuse, and family discord.) These are a few of the many social policy questions which sociologists could help to settle. One of the greatest services any scholarly group can offer is to show the society what policies are most likely to work in achieving its objectives. This is a service which sociologists are qualified to perform.