Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
|Focus||Impact Evaluation in areas such as Microfinance, Public Health, and Agriculture; training and capacity building; policy outreach|
|Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, Sendhil Mullainathan, Rachel Glennerster, Ben Olken, Iqbal Dhaliwal|
|Slogan||Translating research into action|
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 and aims to create a "culture of demanding evidence" to back up policy in the developing world.
History and mission
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. He further endowed its activities in 2009.
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". According to Nicolas Kristof, J-PAL has led a "revolution in evaluation"; its philosophy and methods are part of a larger trend towards "applying behavioral economics to global development." 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."
Though J-PAL was founded as a research center, its activities have expanded to encompass three areas: 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. These evaluations include everything from an analysis of the effectiveness of eyeglasses in China in improving student test scores to a study on the value of deworming to improve student attendance and academic performance in Kenya. 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. 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.
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 Europe (Paris, France), established in 2007 with the Paris School of Economics
- J-PAL South Asia (Chennai, India), established in 2007 with the Institute for Financial Management and Research
- J-PAL Latin America and Caribbean (Santiago, Chile), established in 2009 with the Pontifícia Universidad Católica
- J-PAL Africa (Cape Town, South Africa), established in 2011 with the University of Cape Town at SALDRU
- J-PAL Southeast Asia (Jakarta, Indonesia), based at the Institute for Economic and Social Research within the Faculty of Economics at the University of Indonesia (LPEM-UI)
- J-PAL North America (Cambridge, Massachusetts), established in 2013 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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:
- Energy and Environment
- Labor Markets
- Political Economy & Governance
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 and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.
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, Educate!  and the Small Enterprise Finance Center.
- 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 outcomes 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 monitoring nurses attendance and fining them for absenteeism led to dramatic improvement in attendance until local administration undermined the scheme.
- 2008 J-PAL receives BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for Development Cooperation
- 2009 Abhijit Banerjee receives inaugural Infosys Prize
- 2010 Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan named among Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers
- 2010 Esther Duflo receives John Bates Clark Medal
- 2010 Erica Field receives Elaine Bennett Research Prize
- 2011 Poor Economics chosen as Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.
- 2014 J-PAL, Abhijit Banerjee, and Esther Duflo awarded The Social Science Research Council's Albert O. Hirschman Prize
- About J-PAL | The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
- Boston Review — Rachel Glennerster and Michael Kremer: Small Changes, Big Results For The World's Poor Archived August 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- MIT alumnus backs Poverty Action Lab with 3 major endowments - MIT News Office
- Home | ArabNews
- The Pragmatic Rebels - Businessweek
- Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty book review by Bill Gates
- Search | The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
- The Impact of Eyeglasses on the Academic Performance of Primary School Students in China | The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab
- Our Story | Deworm the World
- MIT TechTV – Nava Ashraf, J-PAL Africa Launch Archived August 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Home | ArabNews
- Home | ArabNews
- J-PAL's regional office in Southeast Asia, based at the University of Indonesia. Official J-PAL website. Retrieved 2013-8-23
- FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award - Management
- J-PAL in India
- J-PAL captures major new international award - MIT News Office
- Foreign Policy's Second Annual List of the 100 Top Global Thinkers | Foreign Policy
- "Statement of Commendation". The Social Science Research Council Albert O. Hirschmann Prize. Retrieved 15 January 2015.