Attribution Problem

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) defines the attribution problem as the difficulty of determining what the specific contribution of a policy or program intervention has been to outcomes, in contrast to all other possible factors that might have affected those outcomes (p. 302).

Pal writes (p. 288):

“A key challenge in performance measurement is attribution, or determining what a program’s contribution has been to a specific outcome. The more difficult question is usually determining just what contribution the specific program in question made to the outcome. How much of the success (or failure) can we attribute to the program? What has been the contribution made by the program? Despite the measurement difficulty, attribution is a problem that cannot be ignored when trying to assess the performance of government programs. Without an answer to this question, little can be said about the worth of the program, nor can advice be provided about future directions (Mayne, 2001).”

See also: Performance Reporting and Performance Measurement.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Organizing and Measuring for Performance (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Mayne, J. (2001, Spring). Addressing attribution through contribution analysis: Using performance measures sensibly. The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 16, 1–24.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 14 April 2017.

Image: Andrea Little Limbago, Endgame, at, accessed 11 April 2017.