Understanding Public Policy

Thomas R. Dye  
Total pages
November 2013
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Understanding Public Policy
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The gold-standard for introductory public policy texts, Understanding Public Policy is designed to provide students with concrete tools for both understanding and analyzing public policy.


The new fourteenth edition of Understanding Public Policy focuses on the policy challenges confronting the Obama administration. This edition provides students with a close up look at the American healthcare system, current economic policies, issues of homeland security and defense policy among many other current event and issues shaping public policy today.


Teaching & Learning Experience

  • Personalize Learning–MySearchLab, which delivers proven results in helping students succeed, provides engaging experiences that personalize learning, and comes from a trusted partner with educational expertise and a deep commitment to helping students and instructors achieve their goals. With a Pearson eText, multiple choice practice quizzes, flashcards, learning objectives and associated media, MySearchLab allows students to utilize what works best for them.
  • Improve Skill Development and Application– Pedagogical features including visual representations of concepts and theories give students an alternative means of understanding course content.
  • Engage Students– With a new four-color design, streamlined and updated coverage, and a vibrant new photo program, this edition engages students from the first page. Focusing on current events that students are experiencing in their everyday lives, this book challenges them to analyze the impact and results of policy-making in today’s world.  
  • ExploreExamples of Contemporary Public Policy- With special attention paid to the current economic state of our country and the Obama Administration’s recent impact on policy, students are presented with examples of the current events happening around them through the lens of public policy theories.  
  • Emphasize Learning Outcomes — Clearly defined Learning Objectives for each chapter are provided in the MySearchLab. Additionally, students are provided with end-of-chapter summaries to assist with exam preparation and assignments.
  • Understand Theory and Research — Additional websites for further research and understanding have been included in the end-of-chapter material giving students a place to go for papers and assignments. The MySearchLab offers step-by-step tutorials offering overviews of the entire writing and research process, as well as quizzes for students to test and evaluate their understanding of course content.
  • Support Instructors– A strong supplements package includes MySearchLab for student studying, complete with chapter learning objectives, multiple choice quizzes, flashcards, and videos. Instructors also have access to an Instructor’s Manual and Testbank, as well as PowerPoint slides. 



  • Introduces students to the principal analytic models of political science, and uses these models to explain the cause and consequences of public policies in key areas. (ex. Ch. 2)
  • Gives special attention to the processes of policymaking as well as current policy issues in eleven substantive areas—Using the various analytic models, the text describes and explains public policy in such areas as criminal justice, health and welfare, education, economic policy, taxation, international trade and immigration, environmental protection, civil rights, federalism, national defense, and Homeland Security. This exposes students to public policy in a variety of key domestic policy areas and encourages them to utilize these conceptual models in political science to explain the causes and consequences of public policies in these areas. (ex. Ch. 6)
  • Provides clarity and balance in the description of public policies. This ensures that students fully understand the covered policies.
  • Includes up-to-date coverage that encourages students to consider the causes and consequences of recent policies. These include healthcare policies, the Obama Administration’s policy-making, the bailout of Wall Street, policies on immigration and homeland security and many more.
  • Approaches politics as conflict: the struggle for power. Politics is never dull, and this textbook reflects this with an engaging writing style and a coverage of controversial issues that is both direct and fair.
  • Includes a new four color design, complete with a completely re-vamped photo program that provides students with engaging, visual representation of the concepts and ideas they read about throughout the text.

New to this Edition

  1. A new chapter discusses changes in the American healthcare system, including Medicare for the aged, Medicaid for the disadvantaged, and SCHIP for children, as well as the conditions inspiring a more comprehensive reform. This new chapter allows students to question whether or not our nation’s healthcare system can be transformed by a rational-comprehensive plan, a major policy issue facing our government. (ex. Ch. 8)
  2. New discussions on the Wall Street bailout, the TARP program, the stimulus package, mortgage modification, and new financial regulations give students the opportunity to study current events in the context of their course. (ex. Ch. 10)
  3. New discussions of the various economic policies of the Obama administration have been added to exemplify the administration’s move away from the traditional incremental model, as evident through the growth of federal funding. A discussion of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution allows students to formulate and discuss their own ideas regarding economic policy. (ex. Ch. 10)
  4. Discussions on the policy effects of the Republican capture of control of the House of Representatives including tax compromises, environmental regulations and immigration reform allow students to analyze a current policy issue using the concepts they read in the text. (ex. Ch. 12)
  5. The defense policy chapter now describes the Obama administration's shift in priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan. New information on the combination of U.S. troops with NATO forces as well as the question of when to use military forces allows students to discuss their opinions on the same policy questions facing our government leaders. (ex. Ch. 15)
  6. Added coverage of state policies in the federalism chapters exposes students to the policy variation among states and the resulting state challenges to national policies, including state medical marijuana laws, Arizona's immigration law, and new healthcare policies. (ex. Ch. 5)

Table of Contents

1: Policy Analysis: What Governments Do, Why They Do It, and What Difference it Makes


2: Models of Politics: Some Help in Thinking About Public Policy


3: The Policymaking Process: Decision-Making Activities


4: Policy Evaluation: Finding Out What Happens After a Law Is Passed


5:  Federalism and State Policies: Institutional Arrangements and Policy Variations


6:  Criminal Justice: Rationality and Irrationality in Public Policy


7:  Welfare: The Search for Rational Strategies


8:  Health Care: Attempting A Rational-Comprehensive Transformation


9:   Education: Group Struggles


10: Economic Policy: Challenging Incrementalism


11: Tax Policy: Battling the Special Interests


12: International Trade and Immigration: Elite-Mass Conflict


13: Energy and the Environment: Externalities and Interests


14: Civil Rights: Elite and Mass Interaction


15: Defense Policy: Strategies for Serious Games


16: Homeland Security: Terrorism and Nondeterrable Threats