November 2023 Newsletter

Three women are seated on a stage.
Stellina Pana, Gifty Amaney, and Pascaline Dupas discuss their education research in Ghana at J-PAL's 20th anniversary celebration on November 3, 2023 at MIT in Cambridge, MA. | Photo: Bryce Vickmark for J-PAL

Celebrating 20 years and looking to the future

We opened our doors in 2003 with a mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. In our first decade, we set out to build a global infrastructure for rigorous research in new contexts. In our second decade, we worked with hundreds of partners to transform how evidence is applied to policy change and strengthen researcher and implementer capacity—all with the goal of improving lives around the world.

On November 3, we hosted an event at MIT in Cambridge, MA, that brought together a diverse group of partners to reflect on two decades of progress and look to the future. The event showcased perspectives of people engaging directly with evidence-informed policies, featuring program participants and implementing partners sharing their stories and their reflections on J-PAL at 20. 

At the event, Esther Duflo (MIT; Director, J-PAL; Scientific Director, J-PAL South Asia) spoke about the importance of expanding education and training to reach the next generation of researchers and policymakers. With demand for evidence continuing to grow, the world needs many more people with the capacity, ambition, and opportunity to make change. As we look to our next decade, we’re exploring new ways to equip people around the world with the tools to innovate, test, and scale—more often than not with no direct J-PAL involvement. Read more »

Launching the UM6P-J-PAL Agricultural Lab for Africa in Morocco

With global food insecurity on the rise, improving food production is essential to reducing poverty and promoting livelihoods across Africa. In partnership with the University Mohammed VI Polytechnic (UM6P), J-PAL recently launched the UM6P-J-PAL Agricultural Lab for Africa (UJALA) in Morocco to build partnerships with the private sector and conduct research that rigorously evaluates agricultural technologies and practices designed to increase small-scale farmers’ food security, productivity, and profitability in Africa. UJALA will answer critical questions about designing and delivering effective food and agricultural subsidies, assessing the value of fertilizer customization, and connecting farmers to markets, among others. Read more »


New case study: Incentives to boost child immunizations in Pakistan

Although vaccines are one of the most effective tools to prevent infectious diseases, childhood immunization rates remain low globally. Rigorous evidence from Interactive Research & Development Global (IRD) researchers and Esther Duflo (MIT; Director, J-PAL; Scientific Director, J-PAL South Asia) and J-PAL affiliated professor Rachel Glennerster (University of Chicago; Co-Chair, J-PAL’s Education sector) has shown that small incentives can increase immunization coverage at a low administrative cost in Pakistan. In the latest Evidence to Policy case study, J-PAL’s Health sector shares how IRD and the Government of Sindh, Pakistan, utilized these findings to inform the scale-up of an immunization incentive program that increased rates and timeliness of routine childhood vaccinations across seven high-risk districts in Sindh. Read the case study »


20 for 20: Transforming the future of work with Arymax Foundation

As J-PAL celebrates its 20th anniversary, the Jobs and Opportunity Initiative (JOI) Brazil enters its third year of funding studies that look into different aspects of the Brazilian labor market. In the latest installment of J-PAL’s “20 for 20: Partner Voices” blog series, J-PAL Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed Vivianne Naigeborin, executive director of the Arymax Foundation, one of the initiative's key partners. Vivianne shares about JOI Brazil and Arymax's evidence-based efforts for productive inclusion and shaping a better future for workers in the country. Read more » 

Partnerships to reduce violence in South African schools 

School violence in the Western Cape, is a prominent concern for the South African government. In the second blog post in a series on Shukuma, a cognitive behavioral therapy-inspired program to reduce violence in South African schools, Lauren Roode (Senior Policy Associate, J-PAL Africa) and Ruth Capon (former Project Lead, Western Cape Government’s Department of the Premier) highlight the important role of partnerships in piloting Shukuma. Read more »

Advice for prospective PhD students from J-PAL’s research network and staff 

Applying for a PhD program this year (or know someone who is)? Check out two new additions to J‑PAL’s blog series offering guidance for prospective PhD students. The first blog post provides advice from J-PAL affiliated professors on essential aspects of the application process, such as showcasing quantitative skills and obtaining credible recommendation letters. The second blog post offers advice from current and recent J-PAL post-docs and staff on factors to consider when choosing which PhD program to attend, including career goals and department culture. Read advice from J-PAL affiliates and recent PhDs »


Empowering people facing extreme poverty through multifaceted livelihood programs

A significant portion of the global population continues to face insecure and irregular income, an issue that disproportionately affects women. An updated Policy Insight from J-PAL’s Finance sector synthesizes evidence from twenty randomized evaluations focused on multifaceted, Graduation approach livelihood programs, developed by the NGO BRAC, that aim to support people's transition out of extreme poverty. The analysis finds that combining asset transfers, training, financial support, coaching, and health services can lead to substantial and lasting improvements for low-income households. Read more »


"Participating in mentorship programs is crucial; pairing young scholars with experienced researchers offers significant learning and opportunities to turn research ideas into reality.”

Robertson Khataza

Robertson Khataza on empowering Malawi's economic development through research and mentorship

Robertson Khataza, a lecturer at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi, was recently featured in J-PAL’s African Scholars Spotlight blog series. Robertson’s research interests span labor markets, women’s empowerment, technology adoption, and agriculture. In the blog post, he draws from his personal experience of the development challenges in Malawi to share why he finds development economics to be a rewarding career path. Throughout, he highlights the importance of mentorship in developing research ideas and completing research. Read more »


In summer 2023, 33 talented researchers joined the J-PAL network. We will feature a few of them here each month.

Susan Dynarski
Harvard University

Tarun Jain
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad

Todd Pugatch
Oregon State University


[Watch] Partnership Development for Climate Adaptation in Arab States Conference 

J-PAL Middle East and North Africa recently co-hosted the Partnership Development for Climate Adaptation in Arab States conference with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Egypt, the National Institute of Governance and Sustainable Development, and the Arab Water Council. Leading up to the 28th Conference of Parties, the event introduced J-PAL’s Air and Water Lab in Egypt and highlighted climate adaptation strategies, focusing on water quality and management, clean energy, agriculture and food security, and education and green skills. Watch the highlight video or read more on the J-PAL blog »


[December 1] Last chance to enroll in J-PAL 101x: Evaluating Social Programs

J-PAL’s free online course on Evaluating Social Programs is open for enrollment until December 1. This self-paced course explores each step in designing a randomized evaluation to rigorously measure the impact of social programs. Enroll today »

Interested in learning more? On the J-PAL blog, past participants share how they used the online course to strengthen the culture of evidence in their organizations and inform real-world evaluations in the Philippines and Brazil. Read more »


Testing consumer preferences for automated EV charging and assessing grid impacts
Centre for Net Zero
J-PAL, UM6P partner to launch agriculture lab in Morocco
Morocco World News

A girl’s struggle for an education
The Fiji Times

Nathaniel Hendren wants to understand the conditions of opportunity
MIT News


Can Personalized Digital Counseling Improve Consumer Search for Modern Contraceptive Methods?
Susan Athey, Katy Bergstrom, Vitor Hadad, Julian C. Jamison, Berk Özler, Luca Parisotto, and Julius Dohbit Sama

Money or Power? Choosing Covid-19 aid in Kenya
Susanna Berkouwer, Pierre Biscaye, Eric Hsu, Oliver Kim, Kenneth Lee, Edward Miguel, and Catherine Wolfram

The Future in Mind: Aspirations and Long-Term Outcomes in Rural Ethiopia
Tanguy Bernard, Stefan Dercon, Kate Orkin, Giulio Schinaia, and Alemayehu Taffesse

Italy: Tutoring Online Program (TOP): A Successful Global Experience
Michela Carlana, Gaia Gaudenzi, and Eliana La Ferrara