Evidence to Policy

Evidence to Policy

Evidence from randomized evaluations is impacting lives by changing how we understand and address problems related to poverty. Policymakers, practitioners, and funders are increasingly applying this learning to the design of social programs in developing and developed countries.

Over 400 million people have been reached by programs that were scaled up after being evaluated by J-PAL-affiliated researchers. Equally importantly, millions more have been impacted by the many other ways that evidence can inform policy.

Well-designed randomized evaluations test theories and provide general insights about how programs designed to address poverty work. These insights, when combined with descriptive data and a deep understanding of the local context and institutions, provide useful guides for policy design. Strong partnerships between implementers, researchers, and donors are critical to leveraging evidence to inform policy.

Insights from randomized evaluations have shifted thinking on global issues, such as the impact of microcredit or user fees for preventative health products. Governments and large organizations are creating institutions to embed experimentation into decision-making. Programs shown to be ineffective have been scaled down, freeing up valuable resources. Together with our partners, we are continuously learning about the myriad ways in which research can guide and shape policy.

J-PAL affiliates and staff work closely with partners to apply the learning from randomized evaluations by mapping global evidence to local context, co-designing programs informed by research, and building local capacity to use evidence.

Pathways to Policy Change

There are many possible pathways from evidence to policy change. Here are some of them.

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Shifting global thinking

Knowledge generated by randomized evaluations has fundamentally shaped our understanding of many social policies.

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Institutionalizing evidence use

Many organizations, including governments and large NGOs, have institutionalized processes for rigorously evaluating innovations and incorporating evidence into decision-making.

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Applying research insights

Lessons from randomized evaluations have informed the design of programs in different contexts.

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Scaling up an evaluated pilot

Innovate, test, scale: Replicating and expanding a successful evaluated pilot to similar contexts

Scaling down an evaluated pilot

Scaling down an evaluated program

Innovate, test, reassess: Partners have rolled back, redesigned, or decided to not move forward with programs that were evaluated and found to be ineffective.

The French government abandoned a policy that would have required firms to make recruitment decisions based on anonymized resumes after research showed that a voluntary, pilot scheme actually harmed minority applicants’ employment chances. Read More
Based on evidence that biometric monitoring technology did not increase doctor’s attendance at primary health centers, the government of Karnataka decided to end the program, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Read More
SAGA Innovations’s intensive math tutoring program has been shown to improve academic outcomes and has now reached 2,500 disadvantaged students in the United States. Read More
Following an evaluation in California testing variations of reminder letters to low-income households to increase take-up of tax credits, the US tax agency scaled up nationally the use of reminders that simply and prominently displayed potential benefits. Read More
With support from J-PAL and IPA, the Ministry of Education in Peru created a dedicated unit to identify, test, and scale low-cost interventions to improve educational outcomes. Read More
GiveDirectly has expanded its cash transfer program, which was found in a randomized evaluation to have improved economic and psychological well-being in Kenya, to reach over 125,000 households in rural Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda since 2013. Read More
Central and state governments in India have adopted a financial reform to enhance public service delivery informed by evidence. Read More
A multifaceted livelihood program has reached and improved the standard of living for more than 640,000 women in Bangladesh and India following randomized evaluations by J-PAL affiliates. Read More
The French Ministry of Education has expanded a parental involvement program to all public schools in the country on a voluntary basis. Read More
Evidence from a randomized evaluation informed the scale-up of a pollution audit policy in Gujarat, India. Read More
Government scale-up improves access to targeted social programs for 65.67 million people. Read More
Innovative technology is used by an estimated 3.86 million people. Read More
A community-based performance-incentivized grant program shown to improve health reached 3.7 million women and children in Indonesia. Read More
Training in soft skills for police in Rajasthan, India improved public perceptions of their performance. Read More
Evidence from randomized evaluations played a role in shifting global opinion to support free distribution of key preventive health products. Read More
After research found that school-based distribution of deworming pills in areas with high infection rates boosted health and school attendance; the approach has been scaled to reach over 285 million children in 2017. Read More
Reorienting classroom instruction has improved learning opportunities for 47.7 million students in India. Read More