Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

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Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
Jpal logo.png
Founded June 2003
Type Academic center
Focus Impact Evaluation in areas such as Microfinance, Public Health, and Agriculture; training and capacity building; policy outreach
Location
Area served Global
Key people Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, Sendhil Mullainathan, Rachel Glennerster, Ben Olken, Iqbal Dhaliwal
Slogan Translating research into action
Website http://www.povertyactionlab.org

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a research center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose members advocate using randomized evaluations to study poverty alleviation. J-PAL collaborates with governments, NGOs and international development organizations to scale-up programs found to be effective[1] and aims to create a "culture of demanding evidence" to back up policy in the developing world.[2]

History and mission[edit]

Founded in 2003 as the “Poverty Action Lab,” J-PAL is currently directed by Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, Benjamin Olken, and Rachel Glennerster. J-PAL was established to support randomized evaluations measuring interventions against poverty, on topics ranging from agriculture and health to governance and education. The Lab was renamed in honor of Abdul Latif Jameel when his son, MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, supported it with three major endowments in 2005.[3] He further endowed its activities in 2009.[4]

A 2010 Business Week story, "The Pragmatic Rebels," termed J-PAL's approach that of "a new breed of skeptical empiricists committed to assiduous testing and tangible results".[5] According to Nicolas Kristof, J-PAL has led a "revolution in evaluation";[6] its philosophy and methods are part of a larger trend towards "applying behavioral economics to global development."[2] In his review of Banerjee and Duflo's book Poor Economics, Bill Gates wrote: "To me, what’s really great about J-PAL is that it’s producing scientific evidence that can help make our anti-poverty efforts more effective."[7]

Activities[edit]

Though J-PAL was founded as a research center, its activities have expanded to encompass three areas: rigorous impact evaluations, policy outreach, and capacity building.

To date, a network of over 100 J-PAL affiliated professors has carried out more than 565 evaluations in 56 countries, and J-PAL has trained over 1,500 people in impact evaluation.[8] These evaluations include everything from an analysis of the effectiveness of eyeglasses in China in improving student test scores[9] to a study on the value of deworming to improve student attendance and academic performance in Kenya.[10] This work, by Michael Kremer and Edward Miguel, provided the impetus for the "Deworm the World" initiative, which has since reached over 20 million children. Another J-PAL researcher, Nava Ashraf, recently completed work on innovative channels to ease the load of overburdened health care workers in Zambia.[11] An evaluation in India by J-PAL Directors Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, and Rachel Glennerster, together with Dhruva Kothari, found that full immunization rates increased dramatically with the introduction of small incentives for parents, coupled with reliable services at convenient mobile clinics.[12]

Structure[edit]

J-PAL's headquarters is a center within the Economics Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with regional offices in Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia that are hosted by a local university:

J-PAL is organized both by these regional offices and by research themes called programs. Programs are led by members of the organization's board of directors, and cover eight areas:

  • Agriculture
  • Crime
  • Education
  • Energy and Environment
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Labor Markets
  • Political Economy & Governance

Partnerships[edit]

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a close partner of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). The two organizations share a common mission and take similar methodological approaches to development policy evaluation, though J-PAL works through universities and makes use of academic resources, while IPA, as a nonprofit, operates through country offices. Both organizations have pioneered the use of randomized evaluations to study the effectiveness of development interventions worldwide and have collaborated extensively on field studies involving randomized evaluations. A number of J-PAL Affiliates are also IPA Research Affiliates or IPA Research Network Members. The work of both organizations is featured in the popular press books More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel, and in Banerjee and Duflo's 2011 book, "Poor Economics," which was chosen as the 2011 Financial Times business book of the year.[17]

Other J-PAL research partners include the Centre for Micro Finance, the Center for International Development's Micro-Development Initiative, the Center of Evaluation for Global Action, Ideas 42, and the Small Enterprise Finance Center.

Experiments and Findings in India[18][edit]

  • AP Smartcards: Assessed impact of Smartcards on leakages in MGNREGS and social security pensions in AP and found that it reduced time taken by beneficiaries to receive payments, reduced leakages, and increased user satisfaction.
  • Haryana Schools: Experimented with teaching students at their actual learning levels, rather than the grade they are in. Such students did better at Hindi but no better at Maths.
  • Bihar MGNREGA: Conducted 12 districts and is testing impact on payment delays and corruption in a new official system of funds release.
  • Rajasthan Police: Conducted between 2005-08, the study involved sending decoys to police stations with fictitious complaints, and analyzing how many cases were actually registered, as well as how policing could be improved.
  • Delhi Deworming: Conducted in 2001-02, showed giving iron, Vitamin A supplements and deworming drugs to 2-6 year old children through balwadis greatly increased their weight and school participation.
  • Udaipur Absent Teachers: In 2003, showed how financial incentives and fines increased teacher attendance, leading to improved learning outcoms for students.
  • Gujarat Pollution Auditing: Experimented with third party pollution audits of industrial firms paid for by a central pool, instead of by the firm itself; found that such independently paid for auditors reported higher levels of pollution.
  • Nurse Attendance: Showed monitor-ing nurses attendance and fining them for absenteeism led to dramatic improvement in attendance until local administration undermined the scheme.

Awards[edit]

The MacArthur Foundation awarded grants to Esther Duflo in 2009, Sendhil Mullainathan in 2002, and Michael Kremer in 1997.

References[edit]

External links[edit]