Evidence to Policy

Evidence from randomized evaluations is changing how we understand and address problems related to poverty. Policymakers, practitioners, and funders worldwide are increasingly applying this learning to social policies and programs.

Over 400 million people have been reached by programs that were scaled up after being evaluated by J-PAL affiliated researchers. Many more have benefitted from the several broader ways evidence can inform policy, outlined below.

Well-designed randomized evaluations test theories and provide general insights about how programs designed to address poverty work. These insights, when combined with descriptive data and a deep understanding of the local context and institutions, provide useful guides for policy design. Strong partnerships between implementers, researchers, and donors are critical to leveraging evidence to inform policy.

Pathways to Policy Change

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Shifting global thinking

Knowledge generated by randomized evaluations has fundamentally shaped our understanding of many social policies.

Example case studies:
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Institutionalizing evidence use

Many organizations, including governments and large NGOs, have institutionalized processes for rigorously evaluating innovations and incorporating evidence into decision-making.

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Applying research insights

Lessons from randomized evaluations have informed the design of programs.

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Adapting and scaling a program

Programs originally evaluated in one context have been adapted and scaled in others.

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Scaling up an evaluated pilot

Innovate, test, scale: Replicating and expanding a successful evaluated pilot to similar contexts.

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Scaling back an evaluated program

Innovate, test, reassess: Partners have scaled down, redesigned, or decided to not move forward with programs that were evaluated and found to be ineffective.

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A government innovation lab to improve education

With support from J-PAL and IPA, the Ministry of Education in Peru created a dedicated unit to identify, test, and scale low-cost interventions to improve educational outcomes.

Fund flow reform for social program delivery

Central and state governments in India have adopted a financial reform to enhance public service delivery informed by evidence.

Giving directly to support poor households

GiveDirectly has expanded its cash transfer program, which was found in a randomized evaluation to have improved economic and psychological well-being in Kenya, to reach over 125,000 households in rural Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda since 2013.

Individualized tutoring to improve learning

Saga Education’s intensive math tutoring program has been shown to improve academic outcomes and has now reached 2,500 students facing barriers in the United States.

Information and enforcement to reduce overfishing

Evidence from a randomized evaluation and cost-effectiveness analysis led the Chilean government to expand a consumer information campaign to protect at-risk marine species.

Information and mediation to improve labor courts

The Government of Mexico used insights from a randomized evaluation to inform a national labor law.

Limits of technological solutions to provider monitoring

Based on evidence that biometric monitoring technology did not increase doctors' attendance at primary health centers, the government of Karnataka decided to end the program, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

Parental engagement to improve children's schooling

The French Ministry of Education has expanded a parental involvement program to all public schools in the country on a voluntary basis.

Promoting housing choice to improve economic mobility

Evidence from a flagship randomized evaluation in the United States prompted legislative and administrative changes to expand housing choice for low-income families.

Simplified reminders to increase take-up of tax credits

Following an evaluation in California testing variations of reminder letters to low-income households to increase take-up of tax credits, the US tax agency scaled up nationally the use of reminders that simply and prominently displayed potential benefits.

Strengthening third-party audits to reduce pollution

Evidence from a randomized evaluation informed the scale-up of a pollution audit policy in Gujarat, India.

Targeted information to improve social assistance

Government scale-up improves access to targeted social programs for 65.67 million people.

Targeting the ultra-poor to improve livelihoods

A multifaceted livelihood program has reached and improved the standard of living for more than 640,000 women in Bangladesh and India following randomized evaluations by J-PAL affiliates.

Unintended effects of anonymous resumes

The French government abandoned a policy that would have required firms to make recruitment decisions based on anonymized resumes after research showed that a voluntary, pilot scheme actually harmed minority applicants’ employment chances.

Policymaker Voices