© 2015

The American Myth of Markets in Social Policy

Ideological Roots of Inequality

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Introduction

    1. Debra Hevenstone
      Pages 1-7
  3. Theory

  4. Policy

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 85-85
    2. Debra Hevenstone
      Pages 235-244
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 245-291

About this book


The American Myth of Markets in Social Policy examines how implementing American tropes in policy design inadvertently frustrates policy goals. The book investigates multiple market-oriented designs including funding for private organizations to deliver public services, funding for individuals to buy services, and policies incentivizing or mandating private actors to provide social policy. Hevenstone shows that these solutions often not only fail to achieve social goals, but actively undermine them. The book carefully details the mechanisms through which this occurs, and examines several policies in depth, covering universal social insurance programs like healthcare and pensions, as well as smaller interventions like programs for the homeless.


Social Policy Pragmatism Reinventing Government Policy Design Federalism Fiscal Federalism Behavioral Economics Social Impact Bonds Outsourcing Vouchers Benefit Reduction Rate Program Evaluation Outcome Measures Creaming Unintended Incentives Choice Poverty Inequality Pensions Social Security care Design evaluation family policy Homelessness labor market labor markets Nation poverty prejudice social insurance social policy social security

About the authors

Debra Hevenstone is Senior Researcher at the University of Zurich, Switzerland and the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Bibliographic information


"The victory of the Cold War by the US-led West has given more credence to the belief that the market is a magic wand. In this provocative book, Debra Hevenstone attacks this widely accepted but false belief. Drawing on America's extensive experiences and fascination with market-oriented solutions in social policy, Hevenstone shows convincingly that such solutions have not only failed to achieve their stated desirable objectives but also generated undesirable, unintended consequences." - Yu Xie, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University, USA

"In this wise and engagingly written book, Debra Hevenstone uses a mixture of theory, hard social science evidence, cross-national comparisons, and personal anecdotes to puncture many myths about American society and American social policy. Students will find it a pleasure to read, faculty members will find that it sparks lively classroom debates, and experts will find that it speaks uncomfortable truths." - R. Kent Weaver, Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution, USA