What do you do at J-PAL? I provide research support for the Nurse-Family Partnership study, coordinating between the research team and providers on study implementation and analysis. I have also contributed to the facilitation of several J-PAL conferences, including for the State & Local Innovation Initiative and the Health Care Delivery Initiative. Lastly, I have been assisting editing a research resources document regarding RCT challenges.
What drew you to want to work at J-PAL? I rightfully anticipated that J-PAL would be a perfect fit for me to put my economics background to good use. It is incredible that the research resources created and impact evaluations conducted in our department have the potential to impact domestic and even global policy.
What is your favorite place in the world that you have been? Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – I went on a zip-line tour, and despite being incredibly nervous, the views were incredible as we were flying over coffee fields and rain forests as we looked out on the lake.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? I would love the chance to speak again with the departed Fr. Ted Hesburgh, CSC – a former president of my alma mater whose actions had meaningful global impact.
If you could buy one material thing, and money was not an issue, what would you buy? A Viking stove top/oven to bake delicious cookies.
Does long-term unemployment hurt a person’s chance of returning to the work force? According to a 2012 analysis by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, long-term unemployment may “produce a self-perpetuating cycle wherein protracted spells of unemployment heighten employer’s reluctance to hire those individuals, which in turn leads to even longer spells of joblessness.” But despite widespread concern about this cycle of long-term unemployment, it has been difficult to credibly establish whether this challenge actually exists.
In response, Kory Kroft (University of Toronto), Fabian Lange (McGill University) and J-PAL affiliate Matthew Notowidigdo (now at Northwestern University) conducted a randomized evaluation testing the impact of the length of job applicants’ unemployment spells on firms’ callback decisions. Using a major online job board in the United States, the researchers sent roughly 12,000 fictitious resumes with randomly varied employment statuses and unemployment spells to 3,000 job openings—four resumes per job. For each job, researchers constructed two high-quality resumes and two low-quality resumes. Researchers also randomly assigned each resume’s employment status and, if unemployed, the length of the current unemployment spell. By randomly varying employment characteristics across high and low-quality resumes, researchers were able to isolate the effect of unemployment spells on firms’ callback decisions.
Overall, the evidence from this study demonstrates that longer unemployment spells reduced interview callbacks, potentially because employers consider long unemployment to be an indicator of low worker quality. Over the first eight months of an unemployment spell, the likelihood of receiving a callback from employers sharply declined the longer an applicant had been unemployed. Past eight months, more time spent out of the workforce did not continue to reduce callbacks. In addition, researchers found that this effect was stronger in a tight local labor market where fewer workers were likely to be unemployed and among young job seekers with limited experience. Future research is needed to examine how duration dependence affects older job seekers.
Study Cited: Kroft, Kory, Fabian Lange, and Matthew J. Notowidigdo. 2013. “Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions: Evidence from a Field Experiment.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 128: 1123-67.
What do you do at J-PAL? I am a research assistant for MIT professor Amy Finkelstein, working on two of her RCT projects. One project in Pennsylvania studies if the intervention helps increase the take-up rate of SNAP, also known as “food stamps”, among poor and elderly population. The other project investigates the impact of introducing decision-making technology on a provider’s decision to order potentially unnecessary radiology scans for patients.
What drew you to want to work at J-PAL? I audited the “Consumers, Firms and Markets in Developing Countries” class taught by professor Robert Jensen at UPenn when I was on exchange and felt inspired by how economic research can help the poor. I wanted first-hand experience doing this kind of research.
What is your favorite place in the world that you have been? I love my hometown, Beijing, very much. Besides Beijing, Kyoto in Japan.
If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dumplings (Jiaozi).
What do you do at J-PAL? I work with policymakers and health care delivery organizations to develop randomized evaluations of innovative programs and policies. My focus is on facilitating collaborations between J-PAL affiliates and the winners of the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition, all of which are deploying novel health and social services to improve health outcomes and enhance the accessibility and affordability of quality health care.
What drew you to want to work at J-PAL? J-PAL’s mission to reduce poverty across the globe and the opportunity to act as a liaison between the worlds of research and policy.
What is your favorite place in the world that you have been? My former home, Vancouver B.C., will always have my heart! The juxtaposition of wild nature and a lively, cosmopolitan city is hard to beat.
If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? The Adventurer Bowl at Life Alive in Cambridge. It tastes great and covers all the food groups!
If you had a million dollars to donate, what would you give it to? Advocacy for universal, affordable child care. I’m passionate about supporting policies that promote gender equality. Access to affordable child care is a huge piece of this puzzle!
What do you do at J-PAL? As a Communications Associate, I work to ensure our research reaches people who can act on it. I identify decision makers–from those who create policy to those who are affected by it—and connect them with research to inform their choices.
What drew you to want to work at J-PAL? I am inspired by J-PAL’s commitment to translate research into action. J-PAL asks tough questions and answers them meticulously, supporting those who have to make hard choices about the best way to tackle poverty.
What is your favorite place in the world that you have been? Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Burritos.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? Diana Nyad.
89.3 WFPL, an NPR affiliate, recently featured the Louisville Department of Metro Corrections and J-PAL North America in a radio story. The article talks about the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections’ innovative pay-for-success initiative to provide treatment to individuals with substance abuse disorders immediately upon release from jail. J-PAL North America has partnered with the Department to design an evaluation of whether the program helps former inmates stay out of jail and lead healthier lives.
J-PAL North America’s executive director Quentin Palfrey spoke to reporter Lisa Gillespie about the program’s potential to break the cycle of poverty and lower healthcare costs. “If it turns out the program works and can keep people from returning to jail, instead of paying the larger amount of incarcerating individuals, [Louisville] will pay for the cost of substance treatment,” Palfrey said.
As a winner of J-PAL’s inaugural Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition, the Louisville Department of Metro Corrections receives technical assistance from J-PAL North America staff and $50,000 toward developing a rigorous evaluation of the program. J-PAL North America hopes that the evaluation will be relevant not only to Louisville, but to cities and states nationwide who are also striving to address this challenge. The competition is a part of J-PAL North America’s United States Health Care Delivery Initiative, which supports the use of randomized evaluations to inform health policy.
Listen to the full WFPL story and read the accompanying article here. To find more about the winners of the Health Care Delivery Innovation Competition, check out the MIT Press Release and stay updated on our blog, Facebook and Twitter.
The White House’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Team released its second report last month, and it’s worth a close read. The SBST was launched just over two years ago, and has been working to make government more effective. This might seem like quiet, behind the scenes work, but it can make a big difference when scaled up across national programs.
I’ve had the honor of working with the SBST over the past two years and have been impressed by key elements of their approach.
They test relatively small tweaks to programs, but these can add up to real changes that improve lives. Here are a few highlights:
A 53 percent increase in workplace savings plan enrollment rates by military service members—more than 4,800 new enrollments—and over $1 million dollars in additional savings in just one month.
A doubling in the rate at which student loan borrowers in default contacted default-resolution representatives.
SBST has been exemplary in how they have made research integrity a major priority.
They are committed to building A/B testing and random assignment into their studies. When appropriate, this can be a very valuable tool for understanding which approaches work and why.
They have highlighted the studies that didn’t work, too, for example in their first report. That’s a refreshingly transparent approach for both academia and government.
They have mastered the art of tapping into external resources and collaborating across agencies.
SBST has partnered with researchers from nationally recognized universities who often provide their time pro bono while getting the chance to conduct policy-relevant studies in partnership with the government. Given the close alignment of J-PAL North America’s specialization on randomized evaluations, our network of academics has been excited to partner with them on multiple studies, and our staff have collaborated from the start on knowledge sharing and best practices in designing and running studies for maximum effect. We’d especially like to congratulate Kelly Bidwell, previously a senior policy manager with J-PAL North America, for her role as one of the initial SBST members during its launch, and her leadership in building the work of SBST.
Last year, President Obama institutionalized their work by signing an executive order to make SBST permanent and directing federal agencies to include behavioral science insights in the design of their programs. I’m hopeful that their work will continue to have an impact for years to come and set the norm for how government innovates.