Governance Review Paper. J-PAL Governance Initiative.


Governments around the world spend billions of dollars annually to provide basic services and development programs aimed at improving the lives of those living in poverty. At the same time, a large number of foundations and international aid organizations channel their development dollars through government-run programs. But the effectiveness of such public spending is often compromised by a number of connected factors: policies that do not reflect the needs or wishes of the people, leakages due to corruption, lack of community participation, and poor oversight of public spending.

Despite the crucial importance of good governance for development, many questions about how to effectively improve governance remain unanswered. Researchers working on field experiments to evaluate programs and policies can provide crucial insights to policymakers on how to improve governance. The value of experimental evidence is likely to be particularly high when it provides clear tests of hypothesized channels of influence.

As a response to this need, this governance review paper summarizes empirically rigorous evidence on governance issues in low-income countries and identifies new directions for research. The objective is twofold: to provide information about how to improve participation in the political and policy processes and reduce leakages in public programs, and to identify gaps in the governance literature which researchers within the Governance Initiative (GI) will seek to fill.

As the work under GI progresses and more gaps are filled, the governance review paper will be updated to reflect the latest research on the drivers of good governance.


Olken, B.A.; Pande, R.; Dhaliwal, I.; Dragusanu, R.; Marshall, C. Governance Review Paper. J-PAL Governance Initiative. Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Cambridge, MA, USA (2011) 82 pp.

Governance Review Paper. J-PAL Governance Initiative.

Published 1 January 2011