The Inclusion Policy Lab’s massive ​effort ​to strengthen social inclusion in Spain with EUR 212 million funding from the European Union

Madrid, Spain
  • The Inclusion Policy Lab was launched in 2021 by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Europe and the Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros (CEMFI).
  • A grant of EUR 212 million from the European Union funded the delivery of 32 social inclusion projects in Spain, supported and evaluated by the Lab.
  • Linked to Spain’s minimum income scheme, which has reached 2.2 million people, the projects evaluated by the Lab have benefitted around 175,000 people.

The European office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL Europe) and the Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros (CEMFI) participated on 17 June 2024 in 'Inclusion Policy Lab: Scientific evidence at the service of people', an event hosted by the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration to disseminate the work of the Inclusion Policy Lab.

A pioneering partnership between the Ministry, J-PAL Europe and CEMFI, the Inclusion Policy Lab aims to strengthen social inclusion and to generate scientific evidence of what works for use in social policymaking in Spain.

Taking place in Madrid, the event gathered Ministry officials, ​​including Minister Elma Saiz and Secretary-General for Inclusion Mónica Martinez-Bravo, researchers and implementing partners, as well as J-PAL co-founder and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee.  

Launched in 2021 in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Inclusion Policy Lab aims to bolster the effect of Spain’s new national minimum income scheme on poverty alleviation by supporting the delivery of innovative social inclusion programmes and rigorously evaluating their effectiveness.

Drawing on the expertise of J-PAL Europe and CEMFI, the Lab brings together a group of leading researchers, policymakers and third-sector institutions to collectively work towards this mission.  

Supported by a EUR ​212​​ ​million grant from the European Union’s NextGenerationEU fund, the Lab has so far supported the delivery of 32 pilot social inclusion programmes by autonomous communities, local entities and third sector ​​organisations​​​, and overseen randomised evaluations of those programmes.

Programmes for which evaluations were completed between 2022-2​024​​​ have looked at issues such as the impact of in-person and online tutoring; the importance of personalised, intensive support for jobseekers, and measures to increase the take-up of social benefits.

Around 175,000 people have benefitted directly or indirectly from the programmes, and 2.2 million people have been reached by Spain’s minimum income scheme.

Samuel Bentolila, professor at CEMFI, said: “The Inclusion Policy Lab is a pioneering initiative. Spain has a high proportion of population at risk of poverty or social exclusion, but little experience in the rigorous evaluation of public policies. The Lab has carried out a large number of innovative policies to foster social inclusion in collaboration with public and private entities, and it has evaluated them in cooperation with prestigious academic experts. As a result, we have learned a great deal about the implementation and effectiveness of social policies to better help Spain’s most vulnerable people​.”​​

Cillian Nolan, executive director of J-PAL Europe, said: “The results presented today mark an important step in strengthening the use of evidence in policy​​​​making in Spain. The Ministry’s investment in building rigorous evidence around social inclusion is unprecedented in scale here in Europe. The next step is to work together to make use of the learnings and translate what we’ve learned from the research to make transformative changes in promoting social inclusion in Spain."

Abhijit Banerjee, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and J-PAL co-founder, said: “With the establishment of the Inclusion Policy Lab, Spain is putting rigorous evidence at the centre of government conversations about policymaking on improving social inclusion. I believe Spain is setting a great example for other countries in Europe in not only building policymakers’ appetite for evidence and their knowledge of what we know and don’t know, but also in putting the infrastructure in place to get the right data and evaluations to answer critical policy questions. My hope is that this work in Spain will inspire other European countries to make similar investments in their efforts to combat poverty and social exclusion.”

Through the Lab, CEMFI and J-PAL Europe have worked with the Ministry to ensure that the evaluations adhere to rigorous scientific standards and to facilitate the use of the lessons learned from these evaluations to inform policymaking. 

CEMFI coordinated a group of 18 international researchers that supported the Ministry and implementing partners in programme design, implementation​​​​ and evaluation.

J-PAL Europe staff provided technical support to the Ministry at every stage of the evaluation process, supported the generation of rigorous evidence​​​​ and promoted evidence-based policymaking.  

J-PAL Europe is based at the Paris School of Economics and leads J-PAL’s research, policy​ and training work in Europe. J-PAL ​Europe ​hosts three research initiatives aiming to generate evidence around key policy priorities in Europe and beyond: the European Social Inclusion Initiative (which is supported by Community Jameel, among others), the Displaced Livelihoods Initiative, and the Humanitarian Protection Initiative. 

The Inclusion Policy Lab in Spain is an important part of J-PAL’s Europe broader work to ensure that policymaking aiming to promote social inclusion in Europe is informed by evidence. 

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