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development impact links

Weekly links November 16: Remembering TN, targeting vs universal transfers debates, farcical robustness checks, bad replication techniques, and more...

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Weekly links November 9: a doppelganger U.K., conditional distributions of journal decision times, invisible infrastructure, and more...

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  • The Wall Street Journal discusses the synthetic control method as a way to understand Brexit (gated): “There are small differences in the various studies, but they all use Prof. Abadie’s method as the basis for constructing a “doppelganger” U.K. from other similar advanced economies, such as the U.S., Canada, France and the Netherlands. They reach similar conclusions, suggesting the British economy at the start of 2018 was around 2% smaller than it would have been had the 2016 referendum gone the other way”
  • Market-level experimentation: In the Harvard Business Review, How Uber used synthetic control methods combined with experiments to decide whether to launch Express Pool.

Weekly links November 2: harnessing shame, measuring markets, African safety nets and apprenticeships, rugby, and more...

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  • “The average number of new social safety net programs launched each year in African countries since 2010 exceeded 10” – Kathleen Beegle on the Africa Can End Poverty blog discusses the rise of social safety nets in Africa.
  • The Declare Design team remind you to stratify your cluster-randomized experiments by cluster size.
  • With the job market coming up, a paper on the characteristics of “job market stars” – one factoid is that in development more than half the stars are female, compared to only 20% of all stars...another is that “not a single star student for six years running has taken a permanent job in industry”.
  • On VoxDev, Gordon Hanson and Amit Khandelwal discuss using night-light intensity to measure markets- with a comparison to what daytime satellite imagery reveals, and a note that combining the two provides the best results – “daytime imagery is particularly well-suited for defining the extent of market areas, and that nightlight imagery is useful for capturing the intensity of activity within these market boundaries”

Weekly links October 19: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – but only if you live in a rich and equal country, updates in randomization inference, graduation programs vs cash, small clusters not such a problem?

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Weekly links October 12: should you decide on ethics by polling, beware the uneven treatment probabilities, roads are good, and more...

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  • Stephanie Schwartz asks “are research ethics a question of public opinion?” on the Political Violence at a glance blog -  which discusses a new study that asked both research subjects and scholars their opinions on the acceptability of different research designs. Interesting discussion, particularly around what to do when the two differ – e.g. “A human rights advocate wants their interview with a researcher to be on the record. But the researcher worries that disclosing the subject’s name might put them in harm’s way. Does the researcher follow the participant’s understanding of “acceptable risk” and publish their name? Or do they follow their own instincts and keep the source anonymous?” (h/t This Week in Africa).
  • On the Future Development blog, Ariel Benyishay and co-authors discuss how they used satellite data to evaluate a USAID rural roads project in Palestine – using a diff-in-diff approach they compare nightlight in 750 meter grid cells shortly before, during, and shortly after the roads were rehabilitated to those in not-yet-improved cells. The report has some discussion of the many challenges involved, such as how to interpret an increase in nightlights, dealing with cells which have multiple roads treated, and the problem of potential spatial reallocation of economic activity.

Weekly links October 5: a new vision for social sciences in Science, doing development at non-R1, advice on jobs and on the media, and more...

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  • Vision statement from Tage Rai, the new social and behavioral sciences editor for Science on what they are looking for: “I feel that our strength is the ability to bridge across social sciences in a way that very few outlets can and at a level that none can match. Therefore, we will be emphasizing papers that cross over major fields more strongly than ever before (e.g. psychology and anthropology, economics and political science, sociology and computer science).... The other major concern that I encounter has to do with scientific practice and reproducibility concerns within the social sciences. Science is actively engaged with these issues and continues to consider best practices going forward. ... First, only a small percentage of papers are sent out for in-depth review. For these papers only, authors will be asked to upload their data to an online repository accessible to reviewers.... I will host a twitter Q&A to answer any questions people may have about publishing with Science. For example, I am often asked about formatting for Science. As most papers are rejected, my approach is to be pretty loose about formatting, with the understanding that if a paper moves further into the process, we can revisit questions of word length and formatting at that time.”
  • Following up on my posts (part 1, part 2) this week on doing development in liberal arts colleges, Shreyasee Das has a thread on the challenges faced doing development research at non-R1/non-LAC schools.
  • Job market advice from Marc Bellemare, especially for those doing agricultural economics.

Weekly links September 28: the peril of meetings, endogenous responses mess up big data uses, what 600+ development papers tells you about our field, and more...

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Weekly links September 21: scholarship labels, designing for spillovers, does your paper have a bande dessinée version? And more...

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Weekly links September 14: stealth cash vs WASH, online job boards, income-smoothing from bridges, lowering interest rates through TA, and more...

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Weekly links September 7: summer learning, wisdom from Manski, how the same data gives many different answers, and more...

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A catch-up of some of the things that caught my attention over our break.
  • The NYTimes Upshot covers an RCT of the Illinois Wellness program, where the authors found no effect, but show that if they had used non-experimental methods, they would have concluded the program was successful.
  • Published in August, “many analysts, one data set”, highlighting how many choices are involved in even simple statistical analysis – “Twenty-nine teams involving 61 analysts used the same data set to address the same research question: whether soccer referees are more likely to give red cards to dark-skin-toned players than to light-skin-toned players. Analytic approaches varied widely across the teams, and the estimated effect sizes ranged from 0.89 to 2.93 (Mdn = 1.31) in odds-ratio units. Twenty teams (69%) found a statistically significant positive effect, and 9 teams (31%) did not observe a significant relationship. Overall, the 29 different analyses used 21 unique combinations of covariates.”
  • Video of Esther Duflo’s NBER Summer institute lecture on machine learning for empirical researchers; and of Penny Goldberg’s NBER lecture on can trade policy serve as competition policy?

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