- Are regression-discontinuity designs ok for election studies? The Monkey Cage summarizes a new paper which says yes.
These past weeks I’ve visited several southern African nations to assist on-going evaluations of health sector pay-for-performance reforms. It’s been a whirlwind of government meetings, field trips, and periods of data crunching. We’ve made good progress and also discovered roadblocks – in other words business as usual in this line of work. One qualitative data point has stayed with me throughout these weeks, the paraphrased words of one clinic worker: “I like this new program because it makes me feel that the people in charge of the system care about us.”
Last week, I talked about the difficulty of categorizing cash transfer programs neatly into bins of unconditional (UCT) and conditional (CCT) ones.
A couple of days ago, my wife and I were having one of the moments -- I was convinced we had had a detailed conversation about something and she was convinced that no such conversation had taken place. Now, if you were to show up and do a survey of us, we wouldn't agree.
Many policymakers are interested in the role of conditions in cash transfer programs. Do they improve outcomes of interest more than money alone? Are there trade-offs? Is there a role for conditions for political rather than technocratic reasons? It’s easy to extend the list of questions for a good while. However, before one can get to these questions, there is a much more basic question that needs to be answered (for any policymaker contemplating running one of these programs at any level): “What do you mean by a conditional (or unconditional) cash transfer program?”
I’ve read several research proposals in the past few months, as well engaged in discussions, that touch on the same question: how to use the spatial variation in a program’s intensity to evaluate its causal impact. Since these proposals and conversations all mentioned the same fairly recent paper by Markus Frolich and Michael Lechner, I eagerly sat down to read it.
How many points do you need to qualify to migrate to Australia? What is the cost of applying? How much money do you need to set up a bank account in the Cayman Islands? What is the procedure for getting money out of these accounts when you want to spend it?
Can we break poverty traps? An interesting new paper by Oriana Bandiera, Robin Burgess, Narayan Das, Selim Gulesci, Imran Rasul, and Munshi Sulaiman adds to this emergent literature with a definitive “yes we can.” Bandiera, et. al. evaluate a program run by the NGO BRAC which provides a significant infusion of capital, coupled with training, for Bangladeshi women.