Our work in this sector aims to increase access to financial products and services, as well as improve the delivery of cash transfer programs to vulnerable households. In Southeast Asia, Covid-19 is predicted to push 38 million people to poverty, bringing the number up to 517 million. This highlights the urgency of a well-designed financial assistance scheme. One of the earliest works of J-PAL affiliated researchers in Indonesia is to test the medium-term impact of Program Keluarga Harapan, the national conditional cash transfer program, on economic, education, and health outcomes in Indonesia. In another study, researchers also evaluated the impact of providing incentives and varying the level of transparency on the take up of branchless banking service in Indonesia.
In 2020, we also created the Inclusive Financial Innovation Initiative (IFII) which aims to generate evidence on digital financial services (DFS). Through its three complementary and closely integrated pillars: conducting new rigorous research; providing policy, research, and analysis support; and organizing learning collaborative sessions, IFII works to ensure that DFS drives economic development while uplifting marginalized populations, including women and people living in poverty.
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Our work in education aims to identify evidence-based practices to increase school enrollment and attendance, as well as to improve learning outcomes. We do this by identifying possible barriers from both the supply and demand side and synthesizing evidence to see what works in the education landscape. Some of the work conducted by our affiliate researchers includes evaluating the impact of conditional community block grants on education and health outcomes, the impact of doubling teachers’ salaries on student performance, and the impact of a 31-day read-a-thon on student’s reading skills.
We also recognize the importance of prioritizing education during the pandemic. In response to the quick transition from normal schooling to learning from home, J-PAL affiliated researchers collaborated with Jakarta’s Provincial Government and the DKI Jakarta Provincial Education Department to conduct an exploratory study aiming to examine the implementation of home learning in DKI Jakarta.
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Our work in the health sector focuses on increasing take-up of preventive health services and products, as well as to improve health care delivery. For instance, in 2014, J-PAL affiliated researchers collaborated with the Indonesian Social Security Agency (BPJS) and National Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) to conduct research on the effect of incentives and information campaigns on insurance take-up among non-poor informal workers in Indonesia. In a different study, researchers also conducted a nationwide Twitter experiment in Indonesia to evaluate the impact of celebrity endorsements on the rate of vaccination.
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Political Economy and Governance
Our work in political economy and governance focuses on strengthening the implementation of public programs and policies to reduce poverty. J-PAL affiliated researchers partner extensively with the Indonesian Government to evaluate social programs. For instance, we partnered with the Ministry of National Development Planning and the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction to understand the effect of ID card distributions on Raskin program delivery and leakages. Following the government’s decision to transition from in-kind cash transfers to electronic food vouchers, the study was extended to measure the impact of the switch.
In another evaluation, researchers also collaborated with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction and Statistics Indonesia to correctly identify and improve the targeting mechanism for the conditional cash transfer program in Indonesia. The evidence gathered from this evaluation was later adopted by the Ministry of Village to distribute cash transfers during Covid-19, specifically for recipients who are previously unenrolled in any social protection program.
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Environment, Energy, and Climate Change
In the environment, energy and climate change sector, J-PAL affiliated researchers collaborated with the ride-share app Grab, using randomized evaluation to encourage the use of carpooling in Malaysia and Singapore to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
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Our work in this sector focuses on reducing gender inequality and advancing gender-equitable growth. We work to ensure that social programs are sensitive to existing gender dynamics, by providing evidence that may help in reducing the gender gap. One of our most recent studies is on women’s digital literacy as an avenue for financial inclusion, conducted by our Inclusive Financial Innovation Initiative (IFII) team. Moreover, through the collaboration with the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), our affiliated researchers evaluated the impact of providing information about the quality of migration agencies to potential female migrants on migrant welfare and the migration market.
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Our work in the labor market sector focuses on helping people find and keep work, especially the younger generation. In 2013, J-PAL affiliated researchers collaborated with oDesk, an online labor market, to evaluate the impact of referrals on new hires’ job performance and turnover.
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In the agriculture sector, our work focuses on encouraging small farmers to adopt proven agricultural practices that may increase their profitability and yield. Often, there are discrepancies between the advice provided by governments or NGOS and the practice of farmers, as governments and NGOs often based their decisions on yield, while farmers tend to base theirs on profitability. Our focus is to bridge this difference in perspective, and to create a groundwork for understanding key policy challenges that might hinder agricultural productivity.
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Our work in the firm sector focuses on evaluating how a firm’s practices may impact their economic growth and the welfare of their workers. We aim to build stronger evidence by understanding constraints that may impede a firm’s growth such as limited access to financial resources, a lack of business skills, and slow adoption of new technologies.