Labor Markets 

Explore J-PAL's current and ongoing work in labor markets.  
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Developing and developed countries alike face the challenges of helping the unemployed find work, easing young people’s transitions from school to the job market, and giving entrepreneurs tools to help them succeed. Randomized evaluations have shown that vocational training for youth and counseling programs for the unemployed can improve labor market outcomes in some contexts. However, not all programs in this area are effective, and many issues regarding young people’s labor market integration remain, suggesting the need for additional rigorous evaluations to support better-designed labor market policies.

J-PAL’s Labor Markets Program brings together experimental research on labor market issues in both developed and developing countries. J-PAL affiliates use randomized evaluations to identify the causal effects of labor market policies and programs targeting job seekers, job centers, and firms.

Completed and ongoing evaluations in this research program have focused on the following issues and questions, among others:

Career counseling, mentoring, and placement assistance. What interventions are most effective in helping the unemployed find work? Can mentoring services and financial assistance help students transition successfully from school to work? Does providing assistance to some job seekers displace employment opportunities for those who do not receive assistance?

Vocational training. What are the returns to vocational education? What is the effect of subsidizing vocational education? What methods of delivery are most effective?

Promotion of entrepreneurship. Can loans or training help aspiring entrepreneurs start successful businesses? Should financial training focus on accounting techniques or simple rules?

Transitions to adulthood. Are apprenticeships effective in helping youth smooth the school-to-work transition? What interventions are most effective in empowering girls to attain employment and delay marriage?

Discrimination in the job market. How do race and class discrimination affect employment opportunities? Can hiring processes be modified to help reduce discrimination?

Incentives for recruitment and performance in the public sector. Can financial incentives improve public sector recruiting? What financial and non-financial incentives work to improve performance for public sector employees?

Youth Initiative

Labor force participation is an important facet of the transition to adulthood, but there is a shortage of rigorous empirical research on how policy can help youth make this transition successfully. To foster evidence-based policymaking that addresses the challenges and opportunities that youth face, J-PAL is launching the Youth Initiative (YI). This coordinated research program will (1) develop and test innovative theories and solutions to the challenges youth face, (2) build capacity for rigorous evaluation and evidence-based youth policymaking, and (3) work with partners to actively promote scale-up of effective solutions.

The YI will initially focus on three interrelated research themes:

  • Transition to work: educational and labor market policies to smooth school-to-work transitions
  • Risky behavior: policies to reduce the odds that young people will engage in risky behavior and encourage their engagement in healthy lifestyles
  • Well-being and integration: policies to promote youth well-being, integration, and participation in social life.