J-PAL North America announced today that it will partner with three U.S. state and local governments to evaluate promising solutions related to education, housing, and economic security.
The California Franchise Tax Board, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, and the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee were selected from among more than two dozen applicants in the latest round of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative. These governments will partner with J-PAL and its network of leading academic researchers to develop randomized evaluations, also known as randomized controlled trials or RCTs, that have the potential to yield rigorous evidence about which programs and policies are most effective.
“We are honored to partner with these governments to both build on existing evidence and generate new insights about what works,” says Mary Ann Bates, executive director of J-PAL North America and initiative co-chair. “The evidence generated through this initiative has the potential to inform important policy decisions, in these jurisdictions and in others across the country.”
The California Franchise Tax Board will partner with J-PAL North America and the California Policy Lab to evaluate the impact of strategies to encourage households to file for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). Like the Federal EITC, one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs, the CalEITC is a refundable income tax credit that provides cash back to low-income working families. Existing research has shown that reminders and simplified materials can increase participation in the EITC and other benefit programs, and the Franchise Tax Board will test strategies to increase EITC take-up among eligible Californians.
“We are always looking for new ways to connect California families with the EITC, and we are delighted to have new partners who are committed to helping us build engagement with this powerful anti-poverty program,” says California Franchise Tax Board Executive Officer Selvi Stanislaus.
The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Council Housing and Redevelopment Authority will partner with J-PAL North America and researchers Nathaniel Hendren and Christopher Palmer to pilot interventions aimed at helping low-income families move to opportunity neighborhoods. Previous research has shown that children whose families move from high poverty areas to lower poverty areas of opportunity have improved educational and earnings outcomes. An important question for policymakers is how best to assist families in making those types of moves successfully. By partnering with researchers to develop a randomized evaluation, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Council Housing and Redevelopment Authority hope to generate rigorous evidence that can be used by policymakers across the country to increase upward economic mobility, especially among children.
“The neighborhood where a low-income child lives can literally make a lifetime of difference. We have data that shows this,” Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Executive Director Greg Russ says. “What we need now is the data to help choose among the different tools in our mobility toolkit. Given limited funds, how can housing and social service agencies best help families make that opportunity move and lock in the long-term benefits?”
Terri Smith, director of the Metropolitan Council Housing and Redevelopment Authority, says her agency is “thrilled to be part of this exciting research, to assist families as they strive for better outcomes for their children and their futures.”
“The needs of low-income families in the Twin Cities metro region are far beyond what federal resources can support; through funding like this grant, hopefully we can identify the most effective ways to assist families,” Smith says. “All families should have housing options, and the opportunity to fully share in our region's prosperity.”
The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee will partner with J-PAL North America to explore an evaluation of the state’s early college high schools, which aim to increase college preparation and degree attainment, especially among low-income students and those who would be the first among their families to attend college. The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee aims to test how early college high schools impact longer-term educational and workforce outcomes and to use this evidence to inform the state’s budget and policy decisions.
"New Mexico has demonstrated its commitment to higher education by investing more in higher education per student than most states but only about a third of our young adults have associates degrees or higher,” says New Mexico State Representative Patricia Lundstrom, Chairwoman of the Legislative Finance Committee. ”Early college high schools have been promoted as a way to help more low-income students and other underrepresented groups succeed in college. We need the data to ensure it’s a good investment for New Mexico."
The California Franchise Tax Board, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, and the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee join eight state and local governments selected through previous rounds of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative: Baltimore; King County, Washington; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia; Puerto Rico; Rochester, New York; Santa Clara, California; and South Carolina. These state and local governments are part of a growing movement to use evidence to improve the effectiveness of policies and programs and ultimately the lives of people experiencing poverty.