Covid-19 Response at J-PAL Europe
In addition to studies being conducted to evaluate responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, J-PAL research on education and labor market inclusion presents important lessons for informing Europe's Covid-19 response. For example, in education, the positive impacts of investments made early in a child’s life can be seen throughout a person’s lifetime, from boosting soft skills to improving employment outcomes and reducing crime rates. Previous research on social inclusion can also provide insights into effective ways to design an inclusive recovery.
In Italy, school closures during the pandemic have disproportionately affected students from disadvantaged backgrounds over the past year, leading to exacerbated inequalities in education. J-PAL affiliates Michela Carlana and Eliana la Ferrara evaluated an intervention providing individual online tutoring to students from underprivileged backgrounds aimed at helping students who have fallen behind catch up with their peers. The researchers found that the intervention increased students’ academic performance and helped improve their socio-emotional skills, aspirations, and psychological well-being, particularly for students from lower socioeconomic and immigrant backgrounds.
In Sweden, J-PAL affiliates Martina Björkman Nyqvist and Abhijeet Singh have partnered with local NGO Kompis Sweden to measure the impact of a buddy-matching programme aimed at creating local social ties to improve the social inclusion of migrants in the country. As a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the program shifted to an online-only interaction mode (instead of prioritizing in-person meetings, the pre-pandemic default). The research team has implemented a pilot to test and adapt the programme between December 2020 and February 2021. Using the findings from the pilot, the team is currently adapting the evaluation design to allow for the possibility of extended social distancing norms continuing in the near future.
In Turkey, J-PAL Europe helped support affiliate Sule Alan with advising the Turkish Ministry of National Education (MoE) on school reopening strategy, as part of a longstanding partnership with the MoE. Alan is currently conducting a study to measure the long-term impact of an intervention focused on fostering refugee and Turkish students’ ability to think from each other's perspectives. The long-term follow-up for this study was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, Alan and the MoE officials are working together to launch a safe follow-up in May-June 2021. In addition to this follow-up, Alan will be collecting data on academic and socio-emotional performance from the original elementary schools. These data will generate a cohort study where the effect of school closures on a wide range of outcomes (academic and socio-emotional) can be identified in the most disadvantaged areas of Turkey. This cohort study will inform the new tutoring programme designed by the MoE.