Research Associate - Olken

J-PAL Global
  • United States of America
Start Date (Earliest):

Summary of the Role

The Research Associate will be based at J-PAL at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. The RA will work under the direction of Professor Ben Olken and focus on projects in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Thailand, with opportunities to interface with other researchers and support additional projects. Current projects include randomized evaluations of Indonesian social programs including graduation from poverty, jobs training, food assistance, electricity subsidies, community-targeted cash transfers, and social insurance, as well as a study on the optimization of Jakarta’s public transit system.

Our team is also using a suite of experimental and quasi-experimental studies in tax administration and tax assessments in Indonesia, Pakistan, and India to better understand how countries can increase the efficiency of their tax collection, including using machine learning to improve property tax collection, to understand how to ultimately raise more revenue to support public programs. In Thailand, we use massive datasets of deidentified administrative data and financial transactions to better understand unemployment, insurance, and industrial policy.

The RA will work closely with Prof. Olken, assisting primarily with data analysis. The typical RA (Data) is considering future graduate study in economics.


1) Data Analysis: Work with data sets, prepare and run code for data cleaning to spot errors, coding in STATA, R, or other languages as needed to perform custom analysis of large datasets, adapt modules and code to the specific project needs, and generally preparing data for analysis. Version control code, manage tasks, and develop technical documentation in GitHub.

2) Literature Research: Assist faculty with literature reviews, drafting such reviews or portions of such reviews.

3) Project Work: Liaising with field staff running evaluations and collaborating with them including programming digital survey instruments and occasional travel to research field sites; focus of work is to advise on quality control of data collection practices.

4) Reporting: As needed, provide input into technical aspects of project reports for funders.

5) Human Subjects: Assist with technical aspects of new protocols, amendments, and renewal applications to Institutional Review Boards, reply to questions from team members working on IRB issues.

6) Writing: Provide input as appropriate into academic papers, as well as memos, presentations, and reports for policymakers; prepare data for publication and publish in publicly accessible repositories.

7) Supervise: Supervise undergraduate interns who may assist with the PI’s project, and assist with technical onboarding for other research team members.

8) Miscellaneous: Any other tasks assigned by the Principal Investigator. Supervision Received: Research Associates report directly to their Principal Investigator. They may get direction from project Research Managers as well.

Supervision Exercised: Research Associates may provide direction to UROPs on their data work.


1) Education: This position requires a bachelor’s degree, including significant training in economics. Applicants need a strong technical background, including demonstrated success in coursework, in statistics, mathematics, and econometrics.

2) Experience: Hands on experience with STATA or equivalent statistical package; experience working with large data sets. 0-2 years of relevant work experience.

3) Communication: Good oral and written communication skills.

4) Time Management: Proven ability to handle several different projects/tasks at one time, communicate progress updates, successfully complete tasks assigned, and meet deadlines. A willingness to work hard, be self-motivated and learn will be essential for doing well in this position.

How to Apply

Please complete the J-PAL/IPA common application. After completing a brief registration, choose the Research job category, then select "Research Associate-Olken” and include the following materials. Note that applications with incomplete submissions will not be considered. Please include the following application materials:

1) Cover letter (one page max)

2) CV

3) Coding sample(s) demonstrating data analysis skills in Stata (preferred), R, or Python. Please submit no more than one coding sample per language. Redact your name from anywhere it appears in the file (including versions of your name in referenced file paths).

4) Two letters of recommendation from academic (preferred) or professional references. You are able to submit your application before your references complete their recommendation letters; however, you must include their contact information before submitting your application. Please notify those you select as professional references because they will automatically receive an email once they are included in your application.

Please note that we may also consider candidates for similar positions at collaborating institutions. Please ‘opt-in to open recruitment’ when completing your J-PAL/IPA common application.

Given the volume of applications received, only short-listed candidates will be contacted for a coding test and/or interview.

Please note that we cannot provide visa sponsorship but may be able to appoint individuals on an OPT.