Thanks, Rory, for picking up on the distinction between the research and the reporting in The Economist. You are absolutely right--I am not writing about the research. I am writing about the reporting of the research; in the comments thread, I do write a bit about the research. We can disagree about whether it is useful to write about the reporting of the research. I think it is useful for a couple of reasons.
First, it is (unfortunately) likely that many more people will read the reporting rather than the original. If the reporting does not make much sense, we should point that out.
Second, and more broadly, in policy research I often find that there is a process of original research and then there is a process of commentary and translation. There aren't that many people engaged in this second task, but to the extent that we want to engage in policy, it is an important task. I do believe that one of our roles in the institution where we sit is to ensure that this translation is done to the best of our ability and elevates the level of the discussion.
So, I do not wish to "poo-poo" the research, but I do want to make very clear that the commentary in The Economist got it wrong to a large extent. To the extent that I can try and add to that commentary, it may be useful for those who may not read the original research. Thoughts?