Much of our work in Evidence-Based Policy is focused on developing our understanding of programs and approaches shown to improve people’s lives. We fund rigorous evaluations including, wherever feasible, well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to assess the effectiveness of programs and practices. RCTs, which are widely recognized as the gold standard in scientific research, are the best way to learn whether an intervention actually produces the hoped-for effects. In an RCT, a sample of individuals or entities, such as schools or counties, is randomly assigned to a “treatment group” that receives the intervention, or to a “control group” that does not. The random assignment process, if carried out with a sufficiently large sample, ensures that there are no systematic differences between the two groups in either observable characteristics, like income or ethnicity, or unobservable characteristics, like personal motivation or family dynamics. Thus, any difference in outcomes between the two groups can be confidently attributed to the intervention and not to other factors. Examples of LJAF-funded RCTs include evaluations of:
▪ A project that is designed to help food banks meet the needs of diabetic clients by offering customized meal boxes, on-site blood sugar screenings, and prompt referrals to community health clinics.
▪ An initiative with local housing authorities that is intended to provide better support for tenants by restructuring rent rules to include financial incentives for steady employment.
▪ An effort aimed at improving outcomes for college students by changing the way financial aid is distributed so that students are more likely to make wise financial management decisions and complete their studies.
▪ An evaluation to determine whether random health and safety inspections in the workplace help reduce on-the-job injuries.
By funding these and other high-quality studies, we hope to learn more about specific interventions and to demonstrate the importance of rigorous evaluations.