Announcing J-PAL’s Policy Insights

A primary school student in India practicing reading skills. Photo: Francisca de Iruarrizaga | J-PAL

Randomized evaluations can generate important insights about human behavior and institutions in addition to measuring the impacts of specific programs and policies. The knowledge generated across multiple randomized evaluations on the same topic can help inform decision-making in governments, NGOs, firms, and funders working to address similar challenges.

For years, J-PAL’s affiliated researchers and staff have been synthesizing what we’re learning from randomized evaluations about a wide range of topics in literature reviews and policy publications.

Today we’re launching an expanded library of much shorter briefs called Policy Insights that highlight lessons emerging from randomized evaluations on topics in J-PAL’s nine sectors.

Beyond summarizing results, Policy Insights discuss the mechanisms, theories, and/or insights about human behavior that help explain the results across studies and why they are similar or different. We also suggest ways in which governments, NGOs, firms, funders, and others can move policy and practice forward based on this evidence. In cases where there are still important open questions or debate among researchers about what explains results, we try to call them out explicitly.

Some of the new and updated topics in our Policy Insights library include: 

J-PAL’s Sector Chairs, sector experts in our network of affiliated professors, have taken the lead with our staff in developing each Policy Insight from a review of relevant randomized evaluations conducted by researchers both inside and beyond the J-PAL network.

Policy insights are not systematic reviews. They offer a perspective on the important takeaways from the growing evidence base on highly policy-relevant topics, and provide some direction for policymakers seeking to inform policy with scientific evidence. When combined with a detailed understanding of context and program implementation, we hope these insights can be practical inputs for policy and program design.

To compile these insights, we search for relevant published and working papers to include on Google Scholar, peer-reviewed journal portals, online evaluation databases, and in existing literature reviews. Sector Chairs can add relevant quasi-experimental evidence to help interpret the experimental evidence.

We give the authors of studies cited in each Policy Insight the opportunity to provide input on the text and included studies—and many have.

We will update insights periodically as the body of evidence grows. The takeaways may change over time as new papers are released, and we’ll announce any substantive updates.

The library we’re launching today is just the start. We will continue to release many more new Policy Insights throughout 2018 and the coming years. Over time, we hope this can become a go-to resource for policymakers looking for a quick synopsis of the state of the evidence on a wide range of topics.

We would love to hear your feedback or ideas for new Policy Insights, so please email us at [email protected].

Posted by Benjamin Olken, Director, J-PAL and Iqbal Dhaliwal, Executive Director, J-PAL