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.

Women using a cookstove in India. Photo: Thomas Chupein | J-PAL/IPA

Biomass cookstoves to reduce indoor air pollution and fuel use

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Despite their positive results in the lab, biomass cookstoves designed to reduce smoke exposure and/or increase fuel efficiency did not substantially improve health in several randomized evaluations in the real world. Many people did not want to buy or maintain them, did not use them enough, and...
A girl in school in India

Increasing student enrollment and attendance: impacts by gender

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Reducing the costs and increasing the perceived benefits of education increase student participation for both boys and girls, and successful programs tend to help the gender with the lowest initial attendance most.
man conducting an audit

Increasing accountability and reducing corruption through government audits

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Government audits have often increased political accountability, reduced misuse of public resources, and improved compliance with laws and regulations. In lower- and middle-income countries, audits have been more effective when the government had a stronger capacity to enforce punishments, when...
Man and woman at ATMs

Reducing the costs of saving

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High costs associated with formal bank accounts are often cited as a key obstacle for low-income households to save in formal financial institutions, but lowering the cost of savings does not consistently increase savings flows, likely due to a multitude of other barriers. Given the positive welfare...
parent child digital report

Providing information to students and parents to improve learning outcomes

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Giving parents and students information about their educational performance or options often increases parental engagement, student effort, or both, leading to improved learning outcomes. Providing information is also typically a low-cost intervention.
students in China taking an exam

Improving learning outcomes through school-based health programs

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Around the world, learning levels remain low and therefore a priority area for improvement. A key barrier to participation and learning in school is student health, especially in low- and middle-income countries. However, due to a lack of coordination between health and education departments, the...
A Teaching at the Right Level reading activity in Zambia. Photo: Anton Scholtz | J-PAL

Tailoring instruction to students’ learning levels to increase learning

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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...
Cash transfer in Kenya

Using cash transfers to improve child health in low- and middle-income countries

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Cash transfer programs conditional on the use of health products and services generally increase uptake and improve child health outcomes among households that receive them. Cash transfers that increase uptake of healthy behaviors in the short term can improve cognition and educational outcomes in...