The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) North America, a research center at MIT, announced Tuesday that Puerto Rico is among five state and local governments that have been selected to participate in the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative.
The five-year initiative supports state and local governments in generating new and widely applicable lessons about which social programs work, which work best, and why.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the City of Rochester, and the State of South Carolina were selected from among 25 applicants, demonstrating the strong interest from state and local leaders across the U.S. in using rigorous evidence to increase government effectiveness and improve outcomes for their residents, the center said in a press release.
This first cohort of governments selected through the State and Local Innovation Initiative will develop and test innovative approaches to increasing employment, helping people move out of poverty, expanding opportunity for young people, and finding more effective treatments for substance use disorders.
These governments will receive funding and on-the-ground technical support to help them design and launch randomized evaluations in partnership with leading academic researchers.
The selected state and local leaders will also participate in custom trainings and meetings to build their capacity to create and use rigorous evidence, share lessons across sites, and showcase them as models for how other state and local governments across the country can feasibly embed high-quality evaluations into their policies and programs.
“We’re excited to work with Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, Rochester, and South Carolina as they innovate to address some of the most pressing challenges facing state and local governments in the U.S.,” said Mary Ann Bates, deputy director of J-PAL North America and co-chair of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative.
“The rigorous evaluations they proposed have the potential to generate important lessons, not just for these five jurisdictions but also others across the country,” she said.
Over the course of this five-year initiative, J-PAL North America will partner with 12 state and local governments and share the evidence generated to ensure that it reaches other state and local governments facing similar challenges.
“We’re grateful to have been selected to participate in the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative,” said Marta Elsa Fernández-Pabellón, administrator for Puerto Rico’s Administration for the Socio-Economic Development of the Family (known as ADSEF for its initials in Spanish.)
“This will allow us to have the financial support and the necessary technical assistance to analyze and evaluate, on a scientific and structured basis, the results of the efforts made to promote self-sufficiency of families in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Puerto Rico,” she said.
“The results will allow us to assess if the strategy to provide incentives to work is a successful strategy that can be used to develop public policies based on evidence that can benefit more TANF participants,” she added.
J-PAL North America is a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at MIT’s Department of Economics.
Since then, it has built a global network of affiliated professors based at more than 40 universities and regional offices in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.