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 600 million people have been reached by programs and policies that have been informed by evaluations 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.


A federal office to bolster evidence-based policymaking

J-PAL staff and affiliates contributed to the creation of the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) to improve the capacity of US federal agencies to build and use rigorous evidence and continue to partner with OES to aid this mission.

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.

Communicating Covid-19 messages at scale via social media

Researchers applied insights from earlier Covid-19 messaging research to launch a large-scale Facebook messaging campaign and corresponding evaluation reaching more than 35 million people.

Community chlorine dispensers for better health

Innovative safe drinking water technology has reached 4 million people in Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda.

Community-based targeting to combat Covid-19-induced poverty

Using community targeting methods to distribute cash transfers during Covid-19 has provided relief to over eight million recipients previously unenrolled in any social protection program in Indonesia.

Designing a social protection program during Covid-19

J-PAL affiliated researchers supported the Government of Chile in designing a cash transfer program during the Covid-19 pandemic, which reached over 3 million households.

Deworming to increase school attendance

After research found that school-based distribution of deworming pills in areas with high infection rates boosted health and school attendance, the approach has been scaled to reach over 280 million children in 2019.

Free bednets to fight malaria

Evidence from randomized evaluations played a role in shifting global opinion to support free distribution of key preventive health products.

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.

Incentivized community grants for aid effectiveness

A performance-incentivized community grant program shown to accelerate improvements in health reached about 4.9 million people from 2010 to 2018 and generated important lessons for future programs to reduce childhood stunting in Indonesia.

Individualized tutoring to improve learning

Saga Education’s intensive math tutoring program has been shown to improve academic outcomes and has now reached 12,000 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.

Institutionalizing a culture of evidence-informed policymaking in Tamil Nadu

A long-standing partnership between the Government of Tamil Nadu and J-PAL in India has helped institutionalize the use of evidence in decision making and build a culture of evidence-informed policymaking.

Interactive Curriculum to Reshape Gender Norms

In India, the state governments of Punjab and Odisha are scaling up an evidence-based gender transformative education program in government schools with the NGO Breakthrough, reaching 4 million students across both states by 2026.

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.

Mobile conditional cash transfers to improve routine childhood immunization

The Health Department of the government of Sindh, Pakistan used rigorous evidence from a randomized evaluation to support the scale-up of an incentive program to increase routine childhood immunization coverage and timeliness.

Normalizing mask usage to combat Covid-19

A community-level mask distribution and promotion program tripled mask usage in Bangladesh and is now being scaled up in multiple countries, reaching almost 14 million people in South Asia so far.

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.

Phone-based technology for agricultural information delivery

Precision Agriculture for Development leveraged findings from two randomized evaluations to create and diffuse a new mobile-phone based model for agricultural extension.

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.

Providing school quality information to improve housing mobility for low-income families

After research found that providing families with information on school quality increased Housing Choice Voucher recipients’ moves to neighborhoods with higher-rated schools, an affordable housing website expanded the provision of school quality information to all of its 60,000 daily site users.

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.

Skills training to strengthen police performance

Training in soft skills for police in Rajasthan, India improved public perceptions of their performance.

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 three million households across 15 countries following randomized evaluations by J-PAL affiliates.

Teaching at the Right Level to improve learning

Reorienting instruction has improved learning opportunities for over 60 million students in India and Africa.

Tutoring to accelerate learning

Research has shown that high-dosage tutoring helps students catch up. Governments and agencies across the United States are implementing tutoring programs to accelerate learning in the wake of Covid-19.  

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.

Using rigorous impact evaluation to help people find jobs

The French Public Employment Service has incorporated rigorous evidence from randomized evaluations into its decision-making processes to improve employment outcomes of job seekers throughout the country.