Policy Side Effects: How Do Policies Become a Source of Social Problems?

General Information

Policy Side Effects: How Do Policies Become a Source of Social Problems?
Yongjin Choi
Publication Type
Dissertation (Bachelor/Master/Phd)
State University of New York at Albany ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,
How do the consequences of a policy become a source of another social problem? Social science scholars have long recognized the possibility that policies often generate new social problems, unintentionally or even intentionally. However, public policy scholarship has been somewhat slow to translate these insights into systematic research inquiries and accumulate concrete knowledge about this issue. As a result, when confronted with the widespread social and political repercussions of unavoidable but strong policy responses, such as COVID-19 associated lockdowns and vaccine mandates, the policy literature has largely failed to advise on how to anticipate, handle, and overcome the hardships generated by these policies. Even yet, we often overlook how complex and diverse policy consequences are and still lack a proper theoretical lens for systematically unpacking the complexity. This dissertation project aims to open an academic discussion on the problem of policy side effects and lays the theoretical foundation for scientifically investigating it, drawing on the cases of COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The four dissertation chapters review and synthesize existing theories of unintended consequences, examine how policy consequences are narrated and constructed as social problems through media communication, explain how policy side effects could affect future policy implementation, and discusses the importance of monitoring policy side effects and mitigating strategies against the side effects. The study findings show that policy side effects are wicked problems that are hard to define and involve moral dilemmas. But more importantly, the results tell us that policy side effects can be anticipated, managed, and mitigated through more sophisticated policy design and further research.