Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 March 2021
State governments, often described as “laboratories of democracy,” design and implement many public policies, but this moniker also implies course correction when initial efforts fail. But how do states learn from failure? Existing hypotheses about policy learning and broad research capacity are insufficient. Using case studies of failed juvenile justice policies in Texas and Washington, I explore when failure acknowledgment occurs at all. I argue that a state’s bureaucratic capacity to gather data—distinct from its analytical capacity—is necessary for public officials to acknowledge failure, highlighting the impact of policy and institutional design on evidence-based policy making and policy corrections.