Evidence to Policy Resources


Since its founding in 2003, J-PAL has focused on using research to drive action towards more effective policies and programs for alleviating poverty. This page features insights from J-PAL staff and affiliated professors on how to leverage evidence to inform policy. The resources below provide practical frameworks and guidance for adapting evidence from one context to another, assessing whether a program is ready for scale, understanding the value of evaluation in scaling policies, and more.

Generalizability: Applying Evidence Across Contexts


Video | Generalizability: Can results from one context be applied to another?
Mary Ann Bates (2019)
A short video that explains how testing one program at a time can make a difference in the lives of millions of people through generalizability.

Paper | The Generalizability Puzzle
Mary Ann Bates and Rachel Glennerster (2017)

A paper and related blog post that set out a practical framework that policymakers can use to decide whether a particular approach makes sense in their context. The framework breaks down the question “will this program work here?” into a series of questions based on the theory and evidence behind a program.

Video | It improved lives elsewhere. Will it here?
Mary Ann Bates (2017)

A TEDx Talk and related blog post on how to adapt lessons about how to fight poverty across contexts, an approach anchored in focusing less on place and more on people’s behavior.

Blog post | Applying the Generalizability Framework: Adopting Teaching at the Right Level in Zambia
Emily Cupito and Ashleigh Morrell (2018)

A blog post on the experience of adapting an education program developed in India to various African contexts. This process has been guided by a framework that provides guidance for adapting effective interventions from one context to another using a combination of randomized evaluations, theory application, and process monitoring.

Pathways for Using Evidence to Inform Policy

Video | Catalyzing scale-ups: Changing lives through evidence
Shobhini Mukerji (2020)
A short video that highlights how J-PAL collaborates with partners to develop a culture of evidence use and to scale programs that are informed by global evidence and grounded in local contexts. 

Guide | Creating a Culture of Evidence Use: Lessons from J-PAL's government partnerships in Latin America
Samantha Carter, Iqbal Dhaliwal, Julu Katticaran, Claudia Macías, Claire Walsh (2018)

A report and related blog post that share lessons learned about building a culture of data and evidence use with J-PAL's government partners in Latin America. The report features insights from interviews with officials from 15 partner agencies and is a useful resource for governments and organizations working on evidence-informed policymaking.

Paper | From proof of concept to scalable policies
Abhijit Banerjee, Rukmini Banerji, James Berry, Esther Duflo, Harini Kannan, Shobhini Mukerji, Marc Shotland, and Michael Walton (2017)

A paper highlighting the process of adapting an NGO-designed intervention known as “Teaching at the Right Level” to be implemented at scale by state governments in India. The paper explains the process of dealing with six key challenges for applying results from a localized evaluation to policymaking at scale.

Video | When do innovation and evidence change lives?
Rachel Glennerster (2017)

A video lecture and related blog post that answer three key questions: What kind of innovations make it to scale? What types of partnerships are needed? What can donors do to catalyze impact?

Paper | From research to policy: Using evidence from impact evaluations to inform development policy
Iqbal Dhaliwal and Caitlin Tulloch (2012)

A paper that discusses how evidence is currently incorporated into policymaking, analyzes the constraints to greater adoption of evidence-based policy, and suggests specific ways for stronger policy–research partnerships to overcome these barriers.

The Role of Randomized Evaluations in Policy

Video | Iqbal Dhaliwal at USAID: A journey from evidence to scale
Iqbal Dhaliwal (2020)
Iqbal Dhaliwal, Global Executive Director of J-PAL, discusses the journey to generate evidence on the effectiveness of the Teaching at the Right Level education methodology in Zambia, with support from USAID's Development Innovation Ventures.

Video | Nobel Lecture: Field Experiments and the Practice of Policy
Esther Duflo (2019)
A video lecture accepting the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences that discusses the use of randomized evaluations in development and how rigorous evidence can inform policy.

Paper | Evidence-informed policy from an international perspective
Thomas Chupein and Rachel Glennerster (2018)

An article that discusses the history of randomized evaluations in development economics and the ways in which their use has shaped disciplinary practices and development policy over the past two decades.

Paper | Experimentation at scale
Karthik Muralidharan and Paul Niehaus (2017)

A paper that makes the case for greater use of randomized evaluations “at scale.” The authors review various critiques of randomized evaluations in developing countries and discuss how experimenting at greater scale along three specific dimensions – the size of the sampling frame, the number of units treated, and the size of the unit of randomization – can help alleviate them.

Paper | The Influence of Randomized Controlled Trials on Development Economics Research and on Development Policy
Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer (2016)

A paper documenting the deep influence of randomized evaluations on the evolution of the field of development economics over the past twenty years.

Paper | The Economist as Plumber
Esther Duflo (2017)

A paper and video lecture that argue that economists should seriously engage with the details, or “plumbing,” of policymaking. The essay argues that tinkering with policy details and then testing innovations with randomized evaluations can give a clear sense of what may work in the real world.