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Policy Insights

What have we learned from randomized evaluations that policymakers, practitioners, and funders can use to improve social programs? J-PAL’s Policy Insights, organized by sector, highlight lessons emerging across multiple studies and the mechanisms that help explain the results.

J-PAL’s Sector Chairs and staff draw these insights from relevant randomized evaluations, updating and adding insights as the body of evidence grows. Each Policy Insight briefly summarizes their perspective on the evidence on a specific topic, with links to the original research and policy summaries. Read this blog post for more information about how we develop Policy Insights.

When combined with a detailed understanding of context and program implementation, we hope these insights can be practical inputs for policy and program design. For examples of how insights from randomized evaluations have informed policy, visit our Evidence to Policy page.

A Teaching at the Right Level reading activity in Zambia. Photo: Anton Scholtz | J-PAL

Tailoring instruction to students’ learning levels to increase learning

Last updated: 
January 2019
In classrooms around the world, many students are not learning at grade level and struggle to catch up. Dedicating a portion of instruction time to tailoring instruction to the learning levels of students is one of the most effective and cost-effective ways of improving learning. Tailored instruction can be delivered effectively through multiple channels: during or after school and by tutors, volunteers, government teachers, or through education technology. Read More
Nurse talking to a patient

The impact of price on take-up and use of preventive health products

Last updated: 
May 2018
Charging fees for many key preventive health products dramatically reduces take-up. Preventive health products distributed for free are generally put to good use. Read More
Women processing fruit in baskets

Credit's limited impact on smallholder farm profitability

Last updated: 
April 2018
Increasing access to traditional microcredit has had limited impacts on smallholder farmers’ profitability in randomized evaluations in developing countries. Demand for new offers of credit was low, ranging from 17 to 33 percent, and even when farmers used traditional credit products to invest in new technologies and practices they rarely experienced increased profits. Read More

Improving extension services to increase smallholder productivity

Last updated: 
April 2018
Agricultural information and extension services in developing countries can be improved by adapting the pedagogical model, using information and communications technology (ICT) to reach farmers directly with more tailored and timely information, incentivizing trainers based on learning outcomes, and leveraging social networks for last-mile information delivery. Read More

Reducing costs to increase school participation

Last updated: 
April 2018
Programs that reduce the costs of education increase student enrollment and attendance. However, there is considerable variation in the cost effectiveness of different programs. Read More

Reducing search barriers for jobseekers

Last updated: 
April 2018
Programs focused on reducing job search barriers often improve jobseekers’ employment outcomes. These programs can help jobseekers identify where and how to look for jobs, encourage increased search effort, and help communicate qualifications to employers. Read More

Microcredit: impacts and limitations

Last updated: 
April 2018
Evidence from randomized evaluations in low- and middle-income countries shows that giving small loans in the form of microcredit did not lead to transformative impacts on income or long-term consumption on average, but it did help households better manage financial choices. Demand for many of the microcredit products was modest. People often used funds for consumption rather than entrepreneurial investments, suggesting that there were high non-entrepreneurial returns to credit. Innovations to... Read More