Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at J-PAL North America
Identifying and dismantling systemic racism is essential to addressing the complex causes and consequences of poverty. On this page, we share our current work—including strategies we are testing and resources under development—to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion among our staff, our network of researchers and partners, and underrepresented scholars in the economics field.
In providing this information, we hope that it may be useful for others who are also striving to catalyze research to advance racial equity, promote inclusion in economics, and center community voices in research practices. Our efforts are a work in progress, and we welcome your feedback both to improve our work and to hold us accountable.
Laura Feeney and Vincent Quan
Co-Executive Directors, J-PAL North America
Definitions and organizational statements
J-PAL North America commitment to DEI
J-PAL North America is committed to building a diverse community. We are working to promote a culture that is welcoming and inclusive to all.
Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to address the complex causes and consequences of poverty. To advance our mission, J-PAL North America must draw on diverse experiences from our staff and affiliated researchers in order to ask better questions and identify better solutions. We are working to increase the limited representation of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds in the economics profession. Our organization is implementing strategies to attract, develop, and advance a diverse staff and building a pipeline to increase diversity among economic researchers. We are committed to engaging in self-reflection, learning, and dialogue to nurture understanding across differences. Together, we will build an equitable, inclusive culture where everyone is respected, empowered, and heard.
J-PAL North America DEI definitions
The following J-PAL North America definitions for diversity, equity, and inclusion build on J-PAL's worldwide definitions to add specificity for our regional context:
We define diversity as the relative representation of the various identities and attributes that make each individual unique. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, language, national origin, educational background, and other dimensions or ideologies. Diversity is a necessary but insufficient condition for equity and inclusion.
We define equity as just and fair treatment, access, and opportunities that promote individual growth and advancement for people of all backgrounds. Equity also refers to the creation and implementation of systems and policies that challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination.
We define inclusion as the creation of a culture that welcomes, values, and supports the opinions and perspectives of all. We view inclusion as a process leading towards belonging, where everyone is encouraged and empowered to be their full, authentic selves.
J-PAL North America staff core values
Our staff have collectively developed a values statement to complement our mission and guide our approach. While our mission lays out what we do, our values statement says who we are and how we carry out our work. We are committed to generating rigorous research to answer policy-relevant questions, translating evidence into action, and, ultimately, reducing poverty. We approach our work with the following set of guiding principles:
Be humble and respectful. We listen to and learn from the people we work with, both internally and externally.
Build inclusive and collaborative relationships. We value our partners’ ideas and experiences and believe a wide range of perspectives makes the research and policy impact stronger. Among staff, we approach our work as a team and provide opportunities to allow everyone to contribute meaningfully.
Embrace equity. We evaluate policies and programs that intend to increase opportunity, reduce disparities, and improve people’s lives. We equip staff with an understanding of structural and institutional barriers related to inequality, engage in long-term efforts to build a diverse network of researchers and staff, and strive to make the research equitable and useful to participant communities.
Act with integrity and transparency. We build trust through proactive communication and consistent follow- through. We implement rigorous processes to ensure research integrity, and we communicate nuanced results thoughtfully and accurately. Among staff, we exchange thoughtful feedback and provide opportunities for ownership.
Pursue learning. We challenge assumptions about which approaches to reduce poverty are effective, and we build others’ capacity to do the same. We nurture curiosity and learning by investing in our staff’s professional development goals.
Statement on condemning anti-Asian hate and violence
19 March 2021
We at J-PAL North America stand in solidarity with Asian and Asian American communities as we grieve and condemn the horrific murders in Cherokee County and Atlanta and the recent surge in anti-Asian violence, discrimination, and rhetoric. These assaults, often targeted at women and elderly people in particular, have been propelled by disinformation and hostility during the pandemic, with more than 3,700 reported incidents of hate against Asian American and Pacific Islanders since the early days of Covid-19.
We grieve for the victims of this wave of xenophobia and racism, which include those murdered in the Georgia shootings targeting Asian businesses: Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun, and Yong Ae Yue. We also mourn Vicha Ratanapakdee, who was murdered while walking on the street in San Francisco, and Pak Ho, who was murdered on his daily walk in Oakland. They are among countless other Asians and Asian Americans who have suffered from ongoing harassment and violence, which the wider public conversation is now only beginning to address.
Such acts, and the other effects of anti-Asian racism that have gone unacknowledged in the past, have contributed to a pervasive feeling of fear and dread in Asian and Asian American communities. We also acknowledge that for many—including J-PAL North America staff, partners, and affiliated researchers—anti-Asian racism and discrimination has caused acute suffering, often in silence, for a long time.
We recognize and denounce anti-Asian prejudice as yet another form of the systemic, white supremacist racism that remains ingrained in our national institutions. As a research center working to advance equity and reduce poverty, we are committed to contributing to the systems-level change necessary to build a more inclusive and equitable society. We intend to do our part to continue the work of self-examination and change to combat anti-Asian prejudice as a foundational component of those efforts. Where we can, we will use our research and expertise to identify and amplify evidence-informed policies that can help in the fight against racism in all of its forms. We commend and seek to learn from the work of others who have been leading these efforts.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice--Atlanta
Statement on standing in solidarity with Black communities
5 June 2020
We at J-PAL North America grieve and condemn the ongoing displays of police violence and systemic racism in the United States and acknowledge the physical and emotional distress they cause. This grief and trauma is especially deep for Black communities, and for our staff, partners, and affiliated researchers who belong to them. Recent events—from the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black individuals by the state, to the deployment of race as a tool of intimidation by Amy Cooper in Central Park—are manifestations of the same anti-Black, racist social structures that have led to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting communities of color.
Through our work, we seek to contribute to the systems-level change that the present moment demands. Dismantling systemic racism is critical to ending poverty and reducing inequality. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the many organizations fighting for transformative change. We are inspired by MIT Associate Dean DiOnetta Jones Crayton’s recent call to action: “We need those called to serve and change systems from within. And we also need those who shake the walls, the ceilings, and the very foundations of oppressive policies and systems from without.”
As a research center within the field of economics, we intend to do our part to continue the work of self examination, change, and movement building to combat the decades of institutionalized racism with which our field is only now beginning to come to terms. Where we can, we will use our research and expertise to identify and amplify evidence-informed policies that can help in the fight against racism and other powerful institutions. Finally, while we are encouraged by the widespread calls for action today, the commitment to ending systemic racism must continue far beyond this current moment. In this way, we hope to honor David McAtee, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Steven Taylor, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others who should still be alive.
Catalyzing racial equity research
Research and evidence play a critical role in addressing gaps and structural inequities in existing systems and policies that disproportionately affect communities of color. By identifying the magnitude of such inequities and more robustly disaggregating data in outcomes among groups that are often underrepresented in economics research, evidence can inform policy in a more nuanced and accurate way. Researchers in the J-PAL network have both published and continue to lead randomized evaluations on topics related to racial equity in the United States.
Below are two examples of the work researchers in the J-PAL network are conducting to identify and address systemic policy gaps in order to inform more equitable practices. It remains a priority of J-PAL North America to catalyze rigorous research centering racial equity.
Identifying and Addressing Structural Racism
This ongoing study, led by researchers in the J-PAL network Damon Jones, Crystal Yang, and Marcella Alsan, launched in May 2021. They use two complementary randomized evaluations to (1) formalize a model of structural racism in the US and (2) test the implication that beliefs regarding racial discrimination in one system will tend to be correlated with discrimination in other systems.
Systemic Discrimination among Large US Employers
This completed study was conducted by researchers in the J-PAL network Patrick Kline, Evan Rose, and Chris Walters in 2021. They found that resumes with distinctively Black names submitted to open job positions at major US firms received lower contact rates than those with distinctively white names. These findings have direct relevance to how the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission combats and identifies discriminatory practices in the labor market, as shared by the researchers in a J-PAL blog post.
Centering community voices in research practices
J-PAL North America continues to explore opportunities to center community voices in our work. The following resources illustrate some examples of strategies we have used to date in both our research and evidence dissemination efforts:
- Podcast Series: J-PAL Voices - The Impact and Promise of Summer Jobs in the United States
- Webinar: Incorporating qualitative research and interdisciplinary perspectives in randomized evaluations
- Webinar: Evaluations and Racial Equity: Considerations for State and Local Policymakers and Researchers
- Blog series: Strengthening randomized evaluations with qualitative research
Building a more inclusive field of economics
J-PAL North America Economics Transformation Project (ETP)
J-PAL North America launched the Economics Transformation Project (ETP), a multi-faceted, comprehensive, and scalable project that erodes structural barriers and increases diversity and inclusion in economics. By supporting the work and well-being of underrepresented voices in the field—including the voices of Black, Latinx, Native American, first-generation, low-income, and female students—ETP will increase their ability to influence policies that affect every aspect of public life. To learn more about ETP’s activities, visit the Economics Transformation Project (ETP) page.
J-PAL's four-part blog series on diversifying economics explores the collaborative nature of ETP. Check it out to learn more about ETP's development and partnerships with other programs.
Finally, the following resource seeks to make pathways into the economics profession more transparent and accessible:
Organizations improving representation in economics
Please visit the pages of organizations who have been working in the North America region to improve representation in the economics profession:
- American Economics Association Summer Program (AEASP)
- Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP)
- Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economic Profession (CSMGEP)
- Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics (DITE)
- Hunter College and the African School of Economics partnership
- Minnesota Center for Diversity in Economics
- PhD Excellence Initiative
- Pathways to Research and Doctoral Careers (PREDOC)
- The Research in Color Foundation
- The Sadie Collective
For more information on J-PAL North America’s partnership with The Research in Color Foundation, see the J-PAL blog post: A Conversation with Research in Color on the importance of mentorship in the economic profession. To learn more about innovative approaches and considerations mentorship program development, check out part four of the J-PAL diversifying economics blog series.
Improving staff diversity and workplace inclusion
J-PAL North America is actively working to improve our recruitment and hiring processes to attract diverse staff who are representative of the communities we serve and can contribute a broader range of perspectives to our work to reduce poverty and advance opportunity. In addition, we are engaging in learning, reflection, and dialogue to ensure an inclusive work environment where differences are respected and celebrated, where staff feel valued, and where all are enabled to meet their full potential.
J-PAL North America DEI Working Group
The J-PAL North America staff DEI Working Group is coordinating the work described on this page. Founded in 2017, the DEI working group was excited that MIT elevated the need for this work by recognizing it with a 2020 MIT Excellence Award for advancing inclusion and global perspectives.