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Five governments selected for J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

Selected state and local governments will receive support from J-PAL North America at MIT to improve the effectiveness of social programs.
Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Photo: Shutterstock

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) North America, a research center at MIT, announced today that five state and local governments have been selected to participate in the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative. This 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.

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 convenings 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.”

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. To learn more, or to sign up to receive updates on the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative, visit

“I’m thrilled that Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to participate in the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “My administration is committed to using rigorous evidence to find solutions to Pennsylvania’s most urgent challenges. On behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth, I look forward to working with J-PAL’s exceptional team of researchers to learn important lessons that will support the fight against the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic that is plaguing Pennsylvania and the nation.”

“I thank J-PAL for their generous grant. It will allow the city to take a thorough, data-driven look at our summer jobs initiative and see how it can be improved,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “This kind of grant funding is essential to allowing municipalities all over the country to critically examine their current practices and improve services for their residents."

"We are grateful to have been selected to participate in the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative,” said Marta Elsa Fernández Pabellón, administrator for the Administration for the Socio-Economic Development of the Family (ADSEF) in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's Department of the Family. “This will allow us to have the financial support and the necessary technical assistance in order 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. 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.”

“Partnerships are the key to success, and I am proud to have a partner in the J-PAL initiative as we work to reduce poverty by creating more jobs, safer, and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “Another key partner in these efforts is the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, who contributed significantly to the J-PAL application and is working hand-in-hand with us on data-driven solutions, like the adult mentor/navigator program currently being designed for our neighborhoods.”

“We’re thrilled to have been selected to participate in J-PAL’s State and Local Innovation Initiative,” said Christian L. Soura, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. “Rigorous evaluation is the only way to truly identify interventions that work. America needs more effective methods to solve pressing social problems, and South Carolina is proud to be at the forefront of that effort.”

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 over 40 universities and regional offices in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. J-PAL North America was established with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and works to improve the effectiveness of social programs in the region through three core activities: research, policy outreach, and capacity building.

For more information, contact initiative manager Julia Chabrier.

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