J-PAL North America Launches Two Social Program Research Partnership Opportunities | MIT News
J-PAL North America, a research center in the Department of Economics at MIT, has opened two assessment incubators: the Housing Stability Assessment Incubator and the State and Local Assessment Incubator. J-PAL North America’s Evaluation Incubators enable partners to use randomized evaluations – the most scientifically rigorous method used to study program impact – to generate evidence about programs and policies that reduce poverty.
Evaluation incubators offer organizations and government agencies the opportunity to expand the evidence base on solutions to pressing policy questions. Both incubators provide selected partners with technical assistance, training, flexible funding, and relationships with academic researchers to build their capacity to generate evidence and use data to guide decision-making. Partners may also have the option of leveraging these resources to conduct randomized evaluation in collaboration with J-PAL affiliated researchers.
Growing housing instability requires innovation and evidence
In the United States, nearly 600,000 people are homeless on any given night, and more than 1.4 million people access shelter in any given year. Homelessness disproportionately affects black people, LGBTQ people, people with severe mental illness, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, and members of several other marginalized communities. Rigorous evidence on strategies to reduce homelessness and promote housing stability is essential to ensure people have a safe and stable place to live.
Randomized evaluations have already demonstrated their ability to transform the field. For example, rigorous evidence on Housing First programs – which provide housing without preconditions – has changed narratives and service delivery standards when results have shown marked reductions in chronic homelessness.
As the scale and complexity of housing instability increases in the United States, so does the need for rigorous research to identify the most effective strategies to end homelessness. Current partners are focusing their research specifically on cash transfers.
Nicole Moler, impact analyst at Compass Family Services, notes the organization’s enthusiasm for the possibility of implementing and rigorously evaluating a cash transfer program with the support of J-PAL North America: We’ve had occasion to give small sums to some customers before and have seen the difference it can make, but haven’t had the data to back up our observations. We’re excited to explore random evaluation because we really want to know if it will work on a larger scale. At the same time, Compass wants to ensure that the assessment is done carefully, ethically and rigorously. This is where J-PAL’s expertise comes in.”
While cash transfers are a promising solution, unanswered policy questions range from how to address the housing shortage to the most effective package of services and for whom. As such, J-PAL North America’s Housing Stability Assessment Incubator invites service providers to submit letters of interest to assess any program aimed at reducing homelessness or promoting stability. long-term housing.
Continuums of care, community organizations and other service providers interested in learning more about this opportunity can contact the Homelessness and Housing Stability team directly or see below for more information. Interested government agencies seeking to address homelessness can direct their applications and letters of interest to the state and local Evaluation Incubator.
State and local governments are uniquely positioned to create and use evidence that addresses social challenges
State and local governments play a central role in gathering rigorous evidence to inform poverty reduction and promote well-being. They make decisions about public school and community college funding, examine how prescription monitoring practices can be adjusted to prevent overprescribing of opioids, and adopt new practices to address disparities in the criminal justice system, to cite just a few examples. State and local researchers and leaders shared key areas where new or additional research at the state and local level is best positioned to remove barriers to poverty mobility. This type of evidence is critical to informing how state and local governments fund and expand these programs.
State agencies, county authorities, and municipal offices can also act as catalysts for innovation by testing new policy approaches to foster upward mobility and community well-being. In turn, policymakers can use this evidence to improve and scale effective policies and programs to reach more people. For example, the Shasta County Superior Court in California has partnered with J-PAL North America to better understand how to reduce failure to appear (FTA) – when a defendant fails to show up for a scheduled hearing – in its district. The FTA can be costly for those who are summoned to court. Even for minor infractions, an FTA can result in additional fines and, in some cases, a warrant for arrest, which can have serious long-term effects on an individual’s record.
Shawn Watts of Shasta County Superior Court explains how critical their partnership with J-PAL North America was in gathering evidence to meet this challenge: “Before this project, the court had no experience with random assessments . The training we received on this research tool was instrumental in our understanding of how we should approach the solutions to our problems. This study showed us that texting could reduce FTAs in our general population, especially if we had more reliable cell phone numbers for our defendants.
This year, to maximize the impacts of the US bailout, investing in effective, evidence-based programs is needed more than ever as communities rebuild after the pandemic. Any state or local government agency interested in testing a promising social program, including those focused on housing stability and homelessness prevention, is encouraged to apply to the state and local evaluation incubator.
Information for potential candidates
Interested organizations are encouraged to submit a letter of interest by October 17 to the Housing Stability Assessment Incubator or State and Local Assessment Incubator. If you think you are eligible for both opportunities, please apply to the national and local evaluation incubator. Detailed instructions on how to apply to incubators are available on their respective web pages.
J-PAL North America will host a webinar on August 25 at 1:30 p.m. ET to provide more information about the two assessment incubators, review the application process, and answer questions. Please contact Laina Sonterblum for any questions regarding the Housing Stability Assessment Incubator and Mera Cronbaugh for any questions regarding the National and Local Assessment Incubator.