Affiliate spotlight: Gustavo J. Bobonis on advancing evidence generation and use in Puerto Rico

Gustavo Bobonis, an Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) affiliate professor and inaugural J-PAL North America evidence champion, speaks about his multi-disciplinarian work in economics, saying, “In the field of economics, we sometimes live in a world of silos relative to other disciplines. And I think we can benefit from taking a more interdisciplinary approach. The area of public health is a good example of this approach. There's been quite a bit of work in Puerto Rico — researchers in the health sciences are working closely with environmental scientists. I think that type of collaboration is key.”


In this Evidence Champion series, J-PAL North America is recognizing individuals in our network who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of evidence-based policymaking. This piece features the work of Gustavo J. Bobonis, our inaugural researcher recipient. Gustavo is a professor of economics at the University of Toronto whose research interests span multiple sectors, including education, political economy, development economics, and labor economics. In this post, we highlight why Gustavo was first drawn to economic research, how he approaches research agenda building, and his advice to researchers for building strong partnerships to advance evidence-based policymaking.

A research agenda informed by lived experience

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Gustavo frequently observed the ups and downs of the economy around him through changes in the infrastructure, public services, the cost of living, and employment opportunities of his family and friends. He saw different countries in the region developing more quickly than Puerto Rico and began wondering: what might work to help people in Puerto Rico and create a more stable economy? Why are some countries growing much faster than others, and what can we learn from them?