The types of data available to development economists are proliferating – multi-topic household surveys are almost passé today but 25 years ago it was a rare privilege to be able to correlate economic measures of the household with other indicators such as health or community infrastructure. Not only are surveys more sophisticated, and arguably contain less error due to the use of field based computers, but the digital revolution has multiplied the types of data at our beck and call.
The latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives (all content openly available online), has a symposium on the use of field experiments in economics. We’ve discussed or linked to posts on three of the four papers in previous blog posts: A paper on mechanism experiments by Ludwig, Kling and Mullainathan; a paper on the
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The New York Times political blog has just posted an interview between David Leonhardt and Sasha Issenberg about Issenberg’s forthcoming book on Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s campaign method. Notable is the use of randomized experiments in campaigning:
The World Bank Group provided $4.2 billion in support to the ICT (information and communications technology) sector over 2003-2010, including 410 non-lending activities for ICT sector reform and capacity building in 91 countries. The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) had the unenviable task of trying to answer whether all this activity has been relevant and effective.
One of the more common requests I receive from colleagues in the World Bank’s operational units is support on evaluating the impact of a large cash transfer program, usually carried out by the national government. Despite the fact that our government counterparts are much more willing to consider a randomized promotion impact evaluation (IE) design these days, still this is often not possible. This could be, for example, because it has already been announced that the program is going to be implemented in certain areas starting on a certain date.
The increased use of randomized experiments in development economics has its enthusiastic champions and its vociferous critics. However, much of the argument seems to be battling against straw men, with at times an unwillingness to concede that the other side has a point. During our surveys of assistant professors and Ph.D.
Bill Easterly was kind enough to send us some detailed comments on Part III of our series on "The Impact of Economics Blogs," asking us that we post them on our blog. We are more than happy to oblige:
Berk, thanks for offering to post this response to your post on your blog. I respect you and many others in the World Bank's Research Department who produce very high quality research that meets rigorous academic standards.
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It’s well-worn development wisdom that transfer programs specifically targeting women result in better child outcomes. Presumably this effect works through the empowerment of women in the household, where the shift in relative earnings gives greater weight to the preferences of the woman and less to those of her husband.
The Telegraph has an article on seven scientific experiments that would have large pay-offs to science, but which would be completely unethical. Examples include separating twins at birth, testing new chemicals on humans, and cross-breeding a human with a chimpanzee. For each, they discuss the scientific premise, and the payoffs to science if it were to be accomplished.
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