Algorithmic Promise, Analytic Peril: Decision-making Tools in Child Welfare

Erin Islo, Philosophy

Wed, 03/10/2021 - 12:00pm
via Zoom
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only
Graduate Students

To RSVP, please email

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.


Abstract:  "This paper outlines and normatively evaluates tools used by states, counties, and cities in making child welfare and family intervention decisions. Some decision-making models are as simple as a checklist or form that a social worker fills out with the data they have available to them. Other models are complex, and often proprietary, machine-learning algorithms or predictive analytics. Most states use a mixed-methods approach, but politicians and the public alike often grant algorithmic and automated decision-making a special kind of epistemic status. I take a critical look at the push towards formalizing child welfare and juvenile justice decision-making and discuss whether such formalization is a unique concern in the context of state intervention with children and families."


Erin Islo

Erin Islo is a third year graduate student in the Philosophy department at Princeton. She received a JD from Yale Law School and clerked on the Second Circuit for the 2019-2020 term. She works primarily in early modern philosophy, especially metaphysics, ethics, and politics, and her dissertation is on the importance of Spinoza's metaphysics to his political theory and vice versa. She also researches the intersection of technology and the law, especially as it impacts procedure.