May 2024 North America Newsletter

Photo of Carlsbad, CA
Photo credit: Simone Hogan,

Over the next few weeks, many state and local governments will be approving and enacting their budgets for the start of the upcoming July 1 fiscal year. As part of the budgeting process, jurisdictions have a critical window to allocate funding to advance evidence-based programs, strengthen data and evaluation infrastructure, and evaluate new innovative programs. Across the country, it has been encouraging to see the number of state and local government partners that have invested in evidence-based practices in recent budgeting cycles. For example, Minnesota’s legislature invested in an evaluation unit to evaluate the efficacy of state investments in human services. In partnership with J-PAL, Minnesota supported a randomized evaluation of the state’s prescription monitoring program (PMP) to evaluate interventions aimed at preventing over-prescribing and co-prescribing of opioids. The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy used the results of this study to create and inform automated messages sent through the PMP. 

In this edition of our newsletter, we highlight several examples that demonstrate the critical role that state and local governments can play in championing the use of evidence to create positive change in their communities. We highlight work happening in the City of Carlsbad, California to center data and evidence in policy decisions and internal operations. We also share The Evaluation Policy Guide, published by our partners at Results for America, which provides free tools to help state and local leaders measure how their programs are impacting their residents based on key lessons learned from federal, state and local government policies. Finally, we feature research results on understanding the demand for police and police alternatives (e.g., the government hotline for mental health crises) and a working paper on increasing the willingness of Black individuals to participate in clinical trials.

At J-PAL North America, we support governments across the United States through our State and Local Innovation Initiative to explore evaluation ideas, connect with researchers experienced with conducting evaluations in state and local contexts, and provide training on key evaluation concepts. I encourage you to read the pieces featured below and consider supporting us in advancing evidence-based solutions to poverty. 


Vincent Quan

Co-Executive Director, J-PAL North America

Evolving towards a data-driven culture: The City of Carlsbad’s reflections from LEVER’s Training Sprint

The Training Sprint, part of the Leveraging Evaluation and Evidence for Equitable Recovery program (LEVER), gives jurisdictions a foundation for building evidence and evaluation into their decision-making processes. Rachel Maltz—Senior Program Manager of the City of Carlsbad California’s Innovation and Economic Development Department— leads the design and implementation of her city’s performance management program and participated in the LEVER Training Sprint last fall. In a recent interview, she shares how she has applied concepts from LEVER’s Training Sprint to improve operational efficiency in Carlsbad, the tools and practices she finds most helpful for her work, and how her city has evolved its data-driven practices. For other jurisdictions looking to do the same, Results for America’s new Evaluation Policy Guide provides a blueprint for developing evaluation policies.

New research results: Understanding demand for police alternatives

In a new working paper, J-PAL affiliated professor Bocar Ba (Duke) and co-authors, evaluated the effect of providing constituents with information on police alternatives and police violence statistics on their willingness to call the police. Using online survey experiments, researchers found that the intervention decreased respondents’ reported likelihood of seeking help from the police for nonviolent matters but increased their likelihood of calling the police in violent situations. People in the treatment group were more likely to remember the 988 government hotline for suicidal crises six months later, suggesting long-term positive impacts of targeted educational interventions. 

Bridging gaps in health care: The impact of investigator diversity on clinical trials

A working paper published in fall 2023 by J-PAL affiliated professor Marcella Alsan (Harvard) and co-authors shows how increasing racial representation of Principal Investigators in clinical trials can increase the willingness of Black individuals to participate. In a new post on the J-PAL blog, we learn more from the researchers on their motivations as well as insights from this new study and the broader implications of their work in increasing diversity in research.

Featured Evaluation Summary

The impact of free tuition program design on college applications and enrollment in the United States

Does including a high degree of certainty in free tuition offers have an impact on application to and enrollment in college? High tuition costs, coupled with complexity and uncertainty in the financial aid process, are key barriers to low-income students’ applications to and enrollment in higher education. Free tuition programs can alleviate these burdens, but there are multiple methods of structuring these programs. Researchers investigated how two different free tuition programs for low-income students affected application and enrollment to the University of Michigan. Read more about the findings in a newly published evaluation summary >> 

Featured Research Resource

Implementing randomized evaluations in government

Drawing upon the experience of our state and local government research partners, this resource provides practical guidance on how to identify good opportunities for randomized evaluations, how randomized evaluations can be feasibly embedded into the implementation of a program or policy, and how to overcome some of the common challenges in designing and carrying out randomized evaluations. Visit our online guide to learn more >> 

Media Mentions


What if canceling people’s medical debt doesn’t help them?


San Francisco Chronicle

Recently homeless S.F. families will get $1,000 a month from Google. Will it make a difference?


The White House

Following Up on the Four Priorities of President Biden’s Workforce Strategy


What Now? With Trevor Noah

A Case for Compassion