Increasing diversity in economics: Collaborating with the Research in Color Foundation

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Participants of J-PAL's executive education course,  Evaluating Social Programs.
A group of participants students participating in J-PAL's executive education course, Evaluating Social Programs.
Photo: Amanda Kohn | J-PAL

Our work at J-PAL is better and more effective when it is informed by a diversity of perspectives. As part of our efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of economics and in our field of work, J-PAL Global has updated our hiring practices to help prevent the siloing of Black people and people of color, as well as those whose backgrounds are underrepresented in economics, in our staff recruitment processes. 

In addition to improving recruitment for full-time roles, we are reimagining our internship programs to create a pipeline of future full-time candidates from more diverse backgrounds. In support of this goal, last spring, J-PAL Global partnered with the Research in Color Foundation (RIC) to develop a paid internship opportunity aimed at increasing diversity in the field of economics. RIC’s mission is to increase the number of scholars of color in economics and improve the retention of underrepresented scholars in the field, while amplifying meaningful economic and policy research on communities of color. 

To achieve this mission, RIC offers a mentorship program for students and young professionals who are interested in pursuing a PhD in economics and adjacent fields. RIC mentees are matched with top economists and quantitative social scientists and collaborate one-on-one for eight months on an independent research project of the mentee’s choosing. After the mentorship period concludes, RIC mentees present their projects at the annual Research in Color conference and are invited to apply for internships at organizations aligned with their research and career interests, including J-PAL and the Jain Family Institute.   

RIC interns at J-PAL work with teams across the organization on projects that involve data analysis, scoping for literature reviews, cost-effectiveness analysis of public policies, supporting our competitive research funds, and more.

Most recently, two RIC interns joined our Global office at MIT in spring 2022 to work on projects that included scoping studies to help guide the Digital Agricultural Innovations and Services Initiative’s research agenda; analyzing internal data from our flagship J-PAL 101x: Evaluating Social Programs online course, which provides an introduction to how to design and implement randomized evaluations, to better serve online learners and guide updates to the course; and working with a J-PAL affiliated professor to collect data on the cost and design of research proposals submitted to J-PAL for a forthcoming academic paper on the optimal method to adjust for multiple hypotheses.

Roy Randen, one of our spring 2022 RIC interns, shared: "Coming in as a remote intern, I tried to temper my expectations about the level of engagement I would have with the wider J-PAL community. But everyone made me feel welcome right from the start! I really appreciate the thought and effort that went into providing an immersive experience, well beyond my day-to-day responsibilities with the RET team."

Precious Fasakin also described her time as a RIC intern at J-PAL as formative. In her words, “working and learning from researchers and affiliates at the forefront of efforts to reduce poverty has informed my work and scholarship.” She highlighted that her work as a RIC mentee prepared her for “a rich and fulfilling experience at J-PAL Global.”

As we continue to refine and expand this internship program into 2023, we invite eligible RIC mentees to reach out to [email protected] by Friday, December 16, 2022 for details on the application process. The application deadline is Sunday, December 18, 2022, at 11:59 pm EST. For those who are interested in becoming a RIC mentee, apply with a resume/CV, brief personal statement, and writing sample. For more information, visit the Research in Color Foundation website

In addition to the RIC internship, we are currently accepting applications for our regular Undergraduate Policy & Communications spring internship and encourage people with backgrounds underrepresented in the field of economics to apply—applications are due November 20, 2022 at 11:59 pm ET.