Research Associate – J-PAL South Asia (Targeting the Ultra-Poor, Bihar)

Language Requirement 
Length of Commitment 
One year
Start Date 

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at the Economics Department at MIT. Since then, it has grown into a global network of researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty. J-PAL is propelled by a first-rate team dedicated to research, policy, training, and other vital work, supporting J-PAL's mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence.

J-PAL South Asia, which is based at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India, analyses and disseminates research results and builds partnerships with policymakers to ensure that policy is driven by evidence, and that programs proven effective are scaled up. We have a growing number of partnerships in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.


Project Description

The Targeting the Ultra-Poor (TUP) programme, implemented by NGOs, has been evaluated in seven countries, including a randomized evaluation in Murshidabad in the West Bengal state of India with implementation by the NGO Bandhan Konnagar.

The TUP programme consists of six complementary components, each designed to address specific constraints facing ultra-poor households. This set of activities over the course of the full 24 months are to help households start a productive self-employment activity and improve outcomes of health, food security and overall well-being. Beneficiaries are given a productive asset, with training and on-going support over 18 months. At the end of the 18 months mentoring support, the beneficiaries have a graduation training to check that they have reached the minimum outcomes for graduation and to provide them information regarding government support programmes, as well as financial services that they can decide to join. Upon graduation, beneficiaries completely exit from TUP programme support. 

In this project, the TUP program will be implemented by the Government of Bihar, through Jeevika (the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society). The Jeevika team will implement TUP as per the evidence-based model. Jeevika has formed self-help groups (SHGs) and Village Organisations (made of representatives of several SHGs), and these structures along with Jeevika staff and community cadre will implement and support TUP implementation.

This randomized evaluation seeks to measure the impact of government-implementation for large-scale coverage of the well-codified TUP programme, which has evidence of long-term impacts on self-employment, consumption, and overall well-being, including health outcomes.

Evaluation questions of interest:

  1. What is the impact of a government-implemented TUP program in the state of Bihar among the ultra-poor beneficiaries on a range of outcomes including: total per capita consumption, food security, asset value, financial inclusion, total time spent working, incomes and revenues, physical health, mental health, political involvement, and women’s empowerment?
  2. What is the impact of the TUP program on beneficiaries’ children and adolescents, specifically regarding outcomes related to their weight and nutritional status?
  3. How does the implementation process of TUP vary from the evidence-based model when implemented by the Government with their structures and systems? A process evaluation, as part of this study will assess this.


Key Responsibilities

The Research Associate will work closely with academic researchers and other field staff to perform a variety tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Designing survey questionnaires, conducting qualitative research, running pilot exercises, refining study design and survey instruments and digitizing modules
  • Managing teams: Set-up, recruit, train, and supervise both field-based and data operations teams consisting of project assistants, field managers, field-based surveyors, data entry operators and other field and office staff
  • Supervising data collection and data entry to ensure good data quality
  • Co-ordinating with the Administrative and Finance team on a variety of tasks related to field staff contracting and payments
  • Overseeing the implementation of the evaluation in accordance with the research design, and proactively flagging deviations
  • Ensuring that the project complies with IRB and JPAL data collection and security protocols with the help of the Research Manager
  • Maintaining clear and constant communication with partner organizations to ensure compliance with research protocol and adherence to timelines
  • Assisting in data cleaning and preliminary data analysis
  • Assist in developing systems for process monitoring of Jeevika’s implementation of TUP
  • Assisting in preparation of documents and presentations for donor reporting as well as dissemination of study findings
  • Periodic reporting to PIs on all of the above-mentioned activities
  • Any other task as assigned by the Research Manager, AD Research or ED

Desired Qualifications and Experience

  • A Bachelor's/Master's degree that includes courses in economics, social sciences, public policy, public health or related fields
  • Knowledge of randomised controlled trials
  • Experience of living and working in a developing country a strong plus
  • Previous experience in development research and knowledge of survey design preferred
  • Excellent management and organizational skills
  • Fluency and excellent communication skills in English
  • Fluency in Hindi
  • Experience of working with the Government a plus
  • Flexible, self-motivating, able to manage multiple tasks efficiently and work as a team player
  • Demonstrated ability to diplomatically manage relationships with partner organizations
  • Strong quantitative skills, including basic knowledge of applied statistics/econometrics, and knowledge of STATA (or other data analysis software)
  • Detail oriented
  • Ability to be patient and deal with changing conditions
  • Ability to take directions well and work independently
  • Willingness to travel to and work in rural areas

How to Apply

How to Apply: Complete the J-PAL/IPA common application. After completing a brief registration; choose the Research job category, then select “Research Associate – J-PAL South Asia (Targeting the Ultra-Poor, Bihar)”. Applications require you to include two letters of recommendation, statement of purpose (cover letter), CV, and transcripts. Note that you are able to submit your application without the recommendation letters. However, please be advised that we will be requiring them should you be invited for an interview. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.