Social Cost Benefit Analysis

Social cost benefit analysis is a part of calculating the merits of a project or a government policy. As the name suggests, social cost-benefit analysis of anything is associated with its social impact. This means that how a project or a policy will affect people is analyzed. Only after calculating the opportunity cost of a project, it is approved.

The scope of social cost benefits can be applied to public investment and also to private investment. In case of public investment, it plays a major role in the economic development of a developing country. And, in case of private investments social cost benefit analysis is important as investments are to be sanctioned and are monitored by the government. There are two aspects of calculating the cost benefit analysis of any project. One is the private cost-benefit analysis and the other is social cost-benefit analysis. Though, social cost-benefit analysis is usually undertaken by the government.

Social cost is often in contrast with private cost. Major differences between social cost benefit analysis and private cost benefit analysis are as follows:

1. In social cost benefit analysis, not only profit but also other effects like how will it affect life of others are considered. Whereas, in private cost benefit analysis, the focus of the analysis is on maximizing profits.

2. For calculating social cost benefit, market prices for the factors to be considered cannot exist. Therefore, market price is not the main factor taken into consideration while calculating social cost benefit. Whereas, for private cost benefit analysis market price forms the base of the analysis and the key factor that determines if a project is viable.

Social Cost = Negative Impact
Social Benefit = Positive Impact

Social cost benefit analysis has been introduced to develop systematic ways of analyzing cost and benefits of factors which do not have market prices, like effect on environment and traffic. Social cost-benefit calculates non-monetized benefits/ losses. It is normally used for large fund projects like constructing a dam, a road. Such projects have higher social cost-benefits and also affects the price level to an extent.

Example: If a bridge is to be constructed then how much will it benefit the people who live in that particular area, is to be analyzed. Therefore, how many people are willing to use the bridge, how much traffic will be reduced and what is the increase in cost of traveling, will have to be assessed as a whole to come to a conclusion. Suppose, if people are not willing to use the bridge if the cost of traveling from the bridge is $5 and if $7 has to be charged per vehicle to make this project feasible, then the government may consider dropping the project out.