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Weekly links July 29: the political economy of running a RCT, the peer review trade-off, work with me, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • A couple of months ago I attended this very interesting conference by the Innovation Growth Lab run by Nesta. I was in a session with Mark Sayers from the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which has been running an RCT on growth vouchers for 20,000 firms in the UK. He gave a talk on lessons learned from a policy side in engaging in such a trial – and I found it very interesting to hear the political economy side (Treasury only agreed to release the funding for a program they were somewhat skeptical of if it would be evaluated by an RCT). A video of his short talk is now up.
  • Slate piece on how journalists should cover working papers (based on the recent Fryer paper on racial bias in the use of lethal force). h/t Berk, who is reminded of his classic post on working papers not working.

Making Disaster Relief More Like Funeral Societies: A Review of Dercon and Clarke’s Dull Disasters

David McKenzie's picture

I was recently at the Novafrica conference in Lisbon, where one of the keynote talks was given by Stefan Dercon. He based it around a newly released short book he has written with Daniel Clarke, called Dull Disasters (open access version). The title is meant to indicate both the aim to make dealing with disasters a dull event rather than media circus, as well as to discuss ways to ‘dull’ or reduce the impact of disasters.
Stefan started his talk by noting that disaster relief may well be the part of the whole international development and humanitarian system that is the least efficient and has had the least research on it. The book starts by noting the predictability of responses “every time a natural disaster hits any part of the world, the newspaper headlines ten days later can be written in advance: ‘why isn’t the response more coordinated?’. He gives the examples of the responses to the earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti, to Hurricane Katrina, and to Ebola as examples. But he then notes the crux of the problem “…The truth is everybody argues for coordination but nobody likes to be coordinated”.

Using Case Studies to Explore and Explain Complex Interventions

Michael Woolcock's picture
One of the most cited of Martin Ravallion’s many papers implores researchers to “look beyond averages” if they want to better understand development processes. One fruitful area in which this might happen is the assessment of complex interventions, a defining characteristic of which is that they generate wide variation in outcomes.

Politics and Governance: calling for evaluation of “atypical” interventions: Guest Blog by Stuti Khemani

A “meta” problem facing not only impact evaluation work but all development policy dialogue is perverse behavior in the public sector to not pursue evidence-based, technically sound policies. Politics and governance come between statistically significant research results and real impact in the world. We confront these problems in a policy research report that has been described as having transformational implications for the business of international development assistance. And we derive implications for a research agenda that involves atypical impact evaluations that would complement work on how to fix the pipes with work on how to fix the institutions that would fix the pipes.

Weekly Links, July 15 -- U.S. Edition: what does police bias have to do with colliders, questions on POTUS publishing in JAMA.

Berk Ozler's picture
  • What’s JAMA’s new impact factor now that POTUS has published a paper there? As you probably heard, Mr. Obama published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, describing the progress to date of the US Health Care Reform and outlining the next steps. I have so many questions: was the review process (if there was one) double blind? Was he first rejected from NEJM? Was there a revise and resubmit? Was Obama totally nice to that rude referee #2, so that his paper could get published without further hassle? If you’re a handling editor or a referee, we want to hear from you (anonymously or not)...

Conditional on your parents, does your country matter for early childhood human capital? Surprisingly no!

David McKenzie's picture
There is a large literature that emphasizes the importance of investments made in early life for lifetime outcomes. Does growing up in a poor, conflict-afflicted country have a negative impact? There are many reasons to think yes, including the disease environment, quality of medical facilities, availability of nutrition, quality of early-childhood education facilities etc.

Weekly links July 8: lions, forests, journals, and income transfers – just another Friday

David McKenzie's picture
  • Veracities on David Card and Stefano DellaVigna’s work in progress on what gets in top economic journals. They have data on submissions to top journals and assess how editor and referee assessments relate to subsequent citations.
  • On Let’s Talk Development, Damien de Walque on giving income transfers to mothers vs fathers, and how a Belgian painting may have it all wrong.
  • Andrew Gelman on some issues with reproducibility in economics and the reluctance of journals to consider comments. I like this: “I do think there’s an unfortunate “incumbency advantage” by which published papers with “p less than .05” are taken as true unless a large effort is amassed to take them down. Criticisms are often held to a much higher standard than held for the reviewing of the original paper and, as noted above, many journals don’t publish letters at all…In journals, it’s all about the wedding, never about the marriage”
  • J-PAL interview with Oriana Bandiera – watch out, it includes another story about Zambia that has crocodiles and lions on the loose.
  • The Washington Post covers the recent experimental evaluation by Seema Jayachandran and co-authors of Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) to reduce deforestation in Uganda. “owners of forested land in 60 villages in the Hoima and Kibaale districts of western Uganda were offered $ 28 per year (70,000 Ugandan shillings) over two years for every hectare of forest that they did not harvest or chop down for other economic reasons. By comparison, in 61 other villages, nothing was offered — but rates of deforestation were monitored by satellite in all villages.The result was that while forest cover decreased by between 7 and 10 percent in the “control” villages, it only dropped between 2 to 5 percent in the designated “treatment” villages, suggesting that the incentive payments were preventing a significant number of landowners from selling large trees for timber or charcoal, or chopping down forest to grow more crops.”

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