Paradigms, policies, and people: Exploring the linkages between normative beliefs, public policies and utility consumer payment problems

Drew Hyman, Jeffrey Bridger, John Shingler, Mollie Van Loon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


This article takes a step toward unifying normative and empirical policy analysis by examining the convergence of societal metatheories, public policy models, and empirical data on consumers. It begins with the premise that policies rest on a foundation of normative beliefs or metatheories that, in turn, put boundaries around the possible and give social meaning to the policies and programs that flow from them. The interaction of social metatheories about poverty and existing policies to deal with people with utility payment problems is examined. The article continues with the idea that good policy arguments are supported with empirical data and factual evidence. An empirical cluster analysis of a representative sample of consumers provides a basis for identifying the extent to which the empirical clusters conform to any or all of the metatheory-policy linkages. The ultimate message is that theory and practice ought to demarcate where they are deductively metaphysical, based on beliefs about a subject, where they are inductively empirical, based on objective measurements relevant to the situation to which applied, and where a mixed approach is used. Linkage of the three types of information allows policy research to identify options in light of the values and metatheories on which they are based and the objective characteristics and effects on their objects of action. The implications are that when policies are based on beliefs that reflect only a part of empirical reality, implementation may fail or be inefficient and ineffective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-121
Number of pages33
JournalReview of Policy Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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