Balu is a senior research associate at MDRC and directs its Center for Applied Behavioral Science. Since 2011, she has led research studies and designed interventions tackling challenges in K-12 education, child welfare, and parenting, often deploying technology-driven solutions such as apps, text-message campaigns, and online tools. She has partnered with institutions around the country to help them base their decisions on data, incorporate predictive analytics, design interventions to solve process challenges, and test those interventions in randomized field trials or other rigorous research designs.
She currently leads evaluations of child welfare interventions targeting parents for the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency — Next Generation project, a digital writing and feedback intervention in New York City high schools called Drive to Write, and a smartphone application to promote father engagement that is part of the Building Bridges and Bonds study, among others.
Balu earned her PhD in the economics of education and her MA in economics from Stanford University. She received an EdM from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University. Before joining MDRC, she worked as associate director of the Center on Universal Education, served as a Fulbright scholar in Guatemala, and worked for several years as a journalist.