State and Local Initiative Current Partners

Since launching the State and Local Innovation Initiative in 2015, J-PAL North America has supported the development and implementation of randomized evaluations in partnership with eighteen state and local governments: Baltimore, MD; California; Franklin County, OH; King County, WA; Massachusetts; Minneapolis, MN; Minnesota; New Mexico; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, PA; Puerto Rico; Rochester, NY; Santa Clara, CA; Shasta County, CA; South Bend, IN; South Carolina; Virginia; and Washington, DC.

These partners are part of a growing movement among state and local governments to use rigorous evidence to improve the effectiveness of their policies and programs and outcomes for people experiencing poverty. Read more about our partnerships below.

Partners

California Department of State Hospitals

The California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) is partnering with J-PAL North America to develop an impact evaluation of the Pre-trial Felony Mental Health Diversion Program, an intervention targeting individuals with serious mental illness who are likely to be found incompetent to stand trial. Participants would be diverted out of the criminal justice system and into wrap-around community treatment services. Historically, when a defendant’s competency is questioned by their defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, or judge, the individual’s court proceedings are suspended. If a defendant has committed a felony and is found Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST), they can receive treatment at a DSH facility. In the new felony pre-trial diversion program, approximately twenty counties will be receiving funding to offer diversion to some of these IST’s. The impact evaluation will measure the effect of the diversion programs on criminal justice and mental health outcomes.

California Franchise Tax Board

The California Franchise Tax Board is interested in using randomized evaluations to identify effective strategies for lifting low-income Californians out of poverty by encouraging eligible households to claim the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). Modeled after the federal EITC, one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs, the CalEITC provides cash to low-income, working Californians. However, not all families who are eligible claim of the credit. The Franchise Tax Board is interested in improving outreach to eligible filers, for example by sending informational letters or personalized communications. The Franchise Tax Board is also interested in testing behavioral nudges that encourage honesty and accuracy among tax filers, which might help close the annual “tax gap”—the difference between what taxpayers owe and what they actually pay—which is estimated to be over $10 billion in California alone.

Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is developing a randomized evaluation to test the effectiveness of a text messaging intervention at reducing churn in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).   SNAP churn is when a case closes and then resumes receipt of benefits within a period of four months.  Some eligible SNAP participants fail to complete administrative processes required to maintain benefits resulting in benefits closing and administrative costs for renewal.  The texting intervention will send reminders to simplified reporting SNAP clients who have an upcoming reevaluation process requirement. Drawing from behavioral science principles, the texts will be sent at each step of the SNAP reevaluation process and will provide information on how to complete the process. The evaluation will measure the effect of this intervention on the probability of on-time reevaluation processes and other administrative outcomes.

Minnesota Board of Pharmacy

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is partnering with J-PAL North America to identify ways to increase the use of Minnesota’s prescription monitoring program (PMP) and measure the impact of that increased use on prescribers’ rate of controlled substance prescriptions and other tertiary outcomes. The PMP database maintains a secure record of all controlled substance prescriptions, and more frequent use of the database may help avoid prescribing to individuals misusing opioids and, instead, allow prescribers to make referrals to treatment services. One idea for a randomized evaluation would test the impact of sending behaviorally-informed mailings or electronic notifications to nudge prescribers of controlled substances to use the database. A second idea for evaluation would test the impact of integrating access to the PMP database into the clinical workflow of a major healthcare system via their electronic medical record (EMR) system. The proposed evaluations would measure the impact of these interventions on the frequency with which practitioners prescribe opioids, their practice specialty, the dosage prescribed, change in prescribing (lower dose, change in drug type), and other measures related to access or use of the PMP.

Minnesota State Court Administrator’s Office

The Minnesota State Court Administrator’s Office is working with Minnesota Management and Budget and J-PAL North America to test the impact of different text message reminders on failures to appear (FTAs) in court among individuals with court dates for criminal hearings or eviction hearings. FTAs are costly for both individuals and the court system; When defendants fail to appear, law enforcement must locate, arrest, transport, and jail the individual, all at taxpayer expense. Previous research has found that text message reminders can reduce failures to appear for arraignment for criminal defendants in New York City, with the size of the reduction depending on the content of the messages. Minnesota’s largest county piloted a text reminder program in 2017 and, after promising results, the Minnesota Judicial Branch decided to make these e-reminders available statewide. Court users statewide will be able to opt-in to receive text and/or email reminders of their upcoming court appearances. This evaluation will measure the impact of the different text message content and timing on appearances for scheduled hearings, warrants issued, and eviction outcomes. 

New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee

The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee is partnering with J-PAL North America to evaluate the effectiveness of the state’s early college high schools. New Mexico high school graduates enroll in higher education above the national average but are more likely to require remedial coursework, and the state ranks among the lowest in the nation for bachelor’s degree attainment. Early college high schools, which have the mission of improving college preparedness and providing students the opportunity to obtain college credits and degrees while they are enrolled in high school, represent one potential solution to this challenge. When there are more applicants to an early college high school than there are available seats, early college high schools may use lotteries to determine admissions. By comparing outcomes for students who gained admissions through a lottery to those who did not, the Legislative Finance Committee can rigorously measure the impact of early college high schools on a variety of long-term outcome, including postsecondary degree attainment and employment outcomes.

Shasta County, California Superior Court

The Shasta County Superior Court is working with J-PAL North America to test strategies for reducing the likelihood that defendants awaiting court processing in the community fail to appear (FTA) for their arraignment. FTAs can be costly for both individuals and the court system; when an individual FTAs, a warrant is issued. Law enforcement is made aware of the FTA warrants, but defendants currently are not notified that warrants have been issued by the Court. Thus, outstanding warrants may also result in defendants’ further entanglement with the criminal justice system without their awareness. Previous research suggests that behavioral nudges, like text messages and redesigned summons, can reduce FTAs. This partnership will explore several different ideas for reducing FTAs in Shasta County to test whether these interventions are effective at reducing FTAs.

Virginia Department of Social Services

The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) is developing a randomized evaluation to test the impact of texting Virginia residents who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on take-up rates of the EITC. The EITC is a federal tax credit designed to support low to moderate-income working families. It encourages and promotes work and off-sets federal payroll tax and income taxes. VDSS currently sends reminder notifications via mail and email to clients who are potentially eligible for the EITC, but not everyone who is eligible for the EITC takes up the benefit; In 2018, the EITC take-up rate among eligible Virginia residents was about 80 percent. VDSS would like to conduct an RCT to test the effectiveness of texting and new messages to generate greater rates of tax filing and EITC claims for eligible people.

Washington, DC

The city of Washington, D.C. is partnering with J-PAL North America to to design, pilot and evaluate less-expensive transportation options for low-income residents. In D.C. and elsewhere, low-income households are the most likely to be burdened by the costs of transportation, the most likely to forego using transit due to cost, and the least likely to have multiple travel options or employer subsidies. Once any potential options have been identified, the city is interested in rigorously measuring the impact of any lower-cost options on mobility as well as measures of social and economic well-being.

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