State and Local Innovation Initiative – Partner Jurisdictions

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In June of 2017, J-PAL North America announced that it will partner with three city and county governments to evaluate promising solutions to critical policy challenges facing state and local governments in the US. The City of Baltimore, Maryland; King County, Washington; and Santa Clara County, California were selected to collaborate with J-PAL North America staff and affiliated researchers to build evidence on programs and policies aimed at helping vulnerable individuals find and keep housing and reducing jail time and recidivism for low-level offenders. These three governments join five governments selected in June 2016 to participate in the first round of the State and Local Innovation Initiative: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, Rochester and South Carolina. 

Overall, the applications submitted to the initiative demonstrate strong interest from state and local leaders across the United States in using rigorous evidence to increase government effectiveness and improve outcomes for their residents. The selected governments will receive funding and technical support to help them design and launch randomized evaluations in partnership with leading academic researchers.

Partners Selected in Round II


Baltimore will partner with J-PAL North America to evaluate housing interventions for unaccompanied homeless youth, ages 18 to 24. The Homelessness Services Program in the Mayor’s Office of Human Services currently implements transitional housing and permanent supportive housing, and plans to begin implementing rapid rehousing for youth. The city anticipates excess demand for its youth housing services, creating an opportunity for random assignment as a fair way to allocate scarce resources that meanwhile allows for rigorous evaluation. Each intervention would include supportive services to increase access to education, benefits, behavioral health services, and family reconnection. Baltimore aims to identify the impact of its housing interventions on homelessness, exits to permanent housing, employment, and income.

King County

King County is interested in two potential evaluations, one focusing on homelessness prevention and one focusing on diversion and rehabilitation of low-level offenders. King County’s Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative (YFHPI) provides flexible funding and case management to families with youth under 18 and unaccompanied youth under age 25 that are at risk of homelessness. The YFHPI program is expected to be substantially oversubscribed, allowing potential for a randomized evaluation. King County would like to evaluate the program’s impact on homelessness as well as secondary health and well-being indicators using client self-reports at program exit. King County is also interested in evaluating Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a pre-booking diversion program that allows law enforcement officers to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug or prostitution to harm reduction-oriented services and case management, instead of to booking and prosecution. King County plans to measure the program’s impact on recidivism, a variety of behavioral health outcomes, and housing.

Santa Clara County

The Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing is interested in evaluating its rapid rehousing program, focusing on single adults without children. The County’s rapid rehousing program aims to quickly move homeless individuals into permanent housing by providing housing search assistance, temporary rental assistance including move-in costs and deposits, and other supportive services for 12-24 months to quickly move homeless individuals into permanent housing. Santa Clara County plans to use its coordinated referral system and vulnerability assessment tool to identify and randomize among individuals eligible for rapid rehousing. Santa Clara County plans to measure the intervention’s impacts on homelessness, involvement with the criminal justice system, hospital admissions, employment, and utilization of public benefits.

Partners Selected in Round I


J-PAL North America and Pennsylvania have explored the feasibility of using a randomized evaluation to study the impact of the Centers of Excellence, which coordinate care for individuals with opioid use disorder to help ensure that they stay in treatment, receive follow-up care, and are supported within their communities. Pennsylvania is particularly interested in evaluating whether Centers of Excellence are effective at increasing initiation of and engagement in treatment among individuals with opioid use disorders, and if so, which components of the model are most effective. Pennsylvania is also interested in understanding the impact of Centers of Excellence on longer-term outcomes, including health, employment and earnings, involvement in the child welfare or criminal justice systems, and participation in public benefits.


Applying Promising Findings: An Experimental Evaluation of Philadelphia WorkReady
Principal Investigator: Sara Heller

Sara Heller (University of Pennsylvania), the City of Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, and the Philadelphia Youth Network are conducting a randomized evaluation to evaluate the impact of WorkReady, a summer jobs program for disadvantaged youth. Recent evidence from random-assignment studies shows that summer jobs programs in New York City and Chicago dramatically reduce violence involvement among participants, but have small, if any, effects on education and employment. The Philadelphia study is intended to 1) assess how generalizable the prior findings are by testing the crime, employment, and school effects of a different summer jobs program in a new setting, and 2) expand tests for program effects to socially-costly correlates of violence that may also be affected: mental health, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, housing instability, and child maltreatment. To study these questions, researchers will allocate about 1,000 of the 8,000 summer WorkReady slots by lottery. Researchers will track youth in a range of administrative data, as well as collect some supplementary qualitative evidence about youth experiences. This project received full evaluation funding in Spring 2017.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Self-Sufficiency Project
Principal Investigator: Gustavo Bobonis
Co-investigators: Frederico Finan, Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, and Deepak Lamba-Nieves

The Puerto Rico Self-Sufficiency Project (PRSSP) is a collaborative initiative of the Puerto Rico Government’s Administration for Socioeconomic Development of the Family (ADSEF) and non-governmental organization Espacios Abiertos to rigorously identify feasible data and evidence-driven solutions to promote the self-sufficiency of participants of Puerto Rico (PR)’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, via improvements in the program work incentives and services delivery. Specifically, current TANF participants will be offered a time-limited monthly earnings supplement conditional on formal sector employment as an incentive to increase their employment and earnings. The project will also involve implementing improvements in a range of pre- and post-employment services to promote participants’ employment transitions. We will measure employment status, earnings, and social insurance disbursements to recipients in the study using ADSEF and Department of Labor administrative data and various rounds of survey data. The demonstration project will help determine whether the proposed reforms can simultaneously reduce poverty and encourage steady work in the formal sector. As part of this project, the research team will also help build capacity of the PR government and train middle management so they can perform future evaluations in house.


Impact Evaluation of Bridges to Success
Principal Investigator: William Evans
Co-Investigators: David Phillips, Javier Espinosa

More than 43 million people in the United States live in poverty. Poverty is particularly pervasive in the city of Rochester, NY where rates are more than twice the national average. The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI), in partnership with the New York Governor's State Anti-Poverty Task Force, is piloting a targeted program designed to reduce poverty in the Rochester-Monroe region. Extensive community research led RMAPI to pilot an adult mentor/navigator program that addresses the issues identified as pervasive in the city of Rochester: a knowledge gap about available services and how to navigate them, and a need for coordinated services. In order to measure the pilot's success and make decisions about scaling the program up, RMAPI has asked the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) from the University of Notre Dame to run a randomized evaluation of the pilot program, Bridges to Success (BTS). This evaluation will test the hypothesis that providing a professional mentor/navigator program in a targeted area of concentrated poverty will increase economic mobility for program participants, resulting in improved self-sufficiency. Results from this study will inform policy decisions to scale up and expand the program in the city of Rochester, and will be disseminated to policy makers and providers in other regions to inform the design or replication of future anti-poverty initiatives. This project received full evaluation funding in Spring 2017.

South Carolina

Leveraging the Random Assignment of Medicaid Managed Care Plans to Study Plan Choices, Treatment Effects, and Cream Skimming
Principal Investigator: Matthew Notowidigdo
Co-Investigator: Craig Garthwaite

In South Carolina, the Medicaid program is administered through Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), which offer different health care plans to Medicaid beneficiaries. These plans differ in their generosity, network coverage, and other attributes, and they are ranked by the state using a system of “star ratings.” The system of MCOs offers choices to health care consumers and allows plans to compete for consumers. In South Carolina, when consumers do not make an active plan choice, the state uses an algorithm to assign plans to consumers automatically. Starting earlier this year (in 2017), this auto-assignment is now being made using an explicitly random process. We propose to use this randomized assignment feature to study the effect of plan assignment on patient outcomes such as health care utilization and health care expenditures (both overall and by category). This prospective analysis will be complemented with a retrospective analysis that takes advantage of the state’s historical quasi-random round-robin assignment procedure to allocate households to plans. Additionally, we propose to combine the analysis of the randomly assigned population with the population that made active choices to try to distinguish between treatment and selection in accounting for which plans perform better.