Reflecting on a decade of J-PAL North America

Reflecting on a decade of J-PAL North America

Note from the Co-Executive Directors

J-PAL North America was started with the mission of applying J-PAL’s global model of reducing poverty through the use of rigorous evidence in the North America region. Early on, we deemed it a great success to get even one large-scale randomized evaluation off the ground in understudied  policy areas, such as health care delivery. But today, we’ve successfully launched nearly 200 evaluations on critical topics ranging from systems-level health care reforms to economic mobility. We didn’t know whether there would be demand from state and local governments to rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of their programs. Yet, we’ve now helped over 30 governments get randomized evaluations off the ground and have cultivated a network of more than 200 government leaders interested in utilizing evidence to improve lives. Over the past decade, we’ve helped expand the realm of policy-relevant evidence that is possible to generate through randomized evaluations. 

We’ve also translated research into action by supporting the scale-up of evidence-based programs such as high-impact tutoring to advance learning, messaging to promote healthy behaviors during Covid-19, expanding housing choice for improved economic mobility, and summer jobs programs to improve youth outcomes. To date, over 35 million people in North America have been impacted by the scale-up of these evidence-based programs.

Laying the foundation for this work is our enormous growth as an office. We’ve expanded from an office of one to over forty full-time professional staff. Our research network of scholars focused on North America has nearly quadrupled in size. We expanded from one topic-focused funding initiative to six, catalyzing a body of evidence across health care; labor; education; housing stability and homelessness; with state and local governments; and in response to today’s greatest challenges like Covid-19. Through these flexible funding streams and research support, we have supported our ever-growing research network in utilizing randomized evaluations in cutting-edge ways to study important topics. 

 As we enter our next decade, we look forward to tackling the major policy challenges–high-quality job opportunities, widespread learning loss, health care reform, and systemic drivers of racial inequities among others–facing North America. In particular, we look forward to deepening our work with state and local governments; centering racial equity more deeply in the research we catalyze and in our internal practices; and continuing to support the scale-up of evidence-based programs to improve lives and promote justice and fairness.

As we reflect on our growth and impact, we also want to thank everyone who made our work possible—the former and current staff; study participants and those represented in the data we rely on; and our network of researchers, partners, and funders—for joining us on the journey. 

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Laura Feeney                   Image 2