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Weekly links June 8: are negative income taxes toxic, marshmallows and SES, psychometric credit, p-value hate, and more...

David McKenzie's picture
  • The Atlantic summarizes a new replication of the marshmallow test, “the new study finds limited support for the idea that being able to delay gratification leads to better outcomes. Instead, it suggests that the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success”
  • David Evans’ collection of logframes!
  • On the All About Finance blog, Claudia Ruiz and co-authors summarize their work in Peru on using psychometric scoring to extend credit to SMEs – using a regression discontinuity.
  • Sylvain Chabé-Ferret hates p-values so much he is writing 6 blog posts about it (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, others to come). I particularly recommend post 4, which has a nice illustration of the point that when samples are small, if you find a statistically significant effect, it is heavily biased: in his simulation “With N=100, the estimates that are statistically different from zero at the 5% level are 2 to 2.5 bigger than the true effect”.

Weekly links June 1: moral quandaries, plunging response rates, business aspirations, an attempt to revive blogging, and more...

David McKenzie's picture

Too poor to save?

Markus Goldstein's picture
Across developing countries, only 63 percent of adults have a bank account, according to our friends over at the Findex.  And we’ve seen a couple of papers with targeted populations that suggest savings vehicles could be good for some development outcomes.   So is it time for a big push on banking the unbanked?  
 

Five small things I’ve learned recently

David McKenzie's picture

As a change from my usual posts, I thought I’d note five small things I’ve learned recently, mostly to do with Stata, with the hope that they might help others, or at least jog my memory when I unlearn them again soon.

1.Stata’s random number generator has a limit on the seed that you can set of 2,147,483,647.
Why did I learn this? We were doing a live random assignment for an impact evaluation I am starting in Colombia. We had programmed up the code, and tested it several times, with it working fine. In our test code, we had set the seed for random number generation as the date “04112018”. Then when my collaborator went to run this live, it was decided to also add the time of the drawing at the end, so that the seed was set as “041120180304”.  This generated an error, and prevented the code from running. Luckily we could quickly fix it, and the live draw proceeded ok. But lesson learned, 2^31-1 is a large number, but sometimes binds.

Weekly links May 25: tips for saying no, three stories on the media and development, cricket as a development policy? And more...

David McKenzie's picture
  • NBER Summer institute development economics program and labor studies program.
  • The map of “Manuscript-Earth” featuring  “The pit of you saved those files, right? Right?”, “confused about the big picture woods”, “The island of misfit results” and other glorious landmarks (h/t Dave Evans).
  • Do you say “no” enough to new projects? Anton Pottegard has a nice poster of 8 practical tools to assist in saying no – including JOMO (joy of missing out) – “once a project is turned down, set time aside to actively ponder about how happy you are not to be doing it” (h/t Scott Cunningham).

Human Capital Round-up - May 2018 Edition

David Evans's picture
Here are 30+ studies on the economics of education and health that I've encountered and found interesting recently. Add your own in the comments!

Education
Teachers and Teaching
  • How much scripting is too much scripting? Piper et al. review the evidence and find that “structured teachers' guides improve learning outcomes, but that overly scripted teachers' guides are somewhat less effective than simplified teachers' guides that give specific guidance to the teacher but are not written word for word for each lesson in the guide.”
  • Teachers in Uganda tend to believe they are better than most other teachers in terms of ability and effort. This is especially true for low-effort teachers (Sabarwal, Kacker, and Habyarimana).
  • Across 328 studies with nearly 4,000 effects, Direct Instruction performed really well: “All of the estimated effects were positive and all [with cognitive outcomes] were statistically significant” (Stockard et al.) What’s direct instruction? Think scripted lessons PLUS.
  • A small study of 36 teachers in China showed that teachers “scored high on classroom organization, but lower on emotional support and instructional support.” Also, teachers who believe students should be at the center do better. (Coflan et al.)
  • A large, unconditional increase in teacher salaries in Indonesia had no impact on student performance (de Ree et al.). This paper has been around (here’s my blog post on it), but it’s just now been published.
  • Training teachers in a low-cost, highly scripted teaching method led to big gains in Papua New Guinea (Macdonald and Vu).
  • Having subject-specific teachers in primary school may actually lead to less learning and lower student attendance. Evidence from the USA (Fryer) (My blog about it.)

Review of Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World

Berk Ozler's picture

This is a guest post by Bruce Wydick.

It isn’t hard to understand why Andrew Leigh would write a book on randomized controlled trials. A kind of modern renaissance man, Leigh currently serves as a member of the Australian House of Representatives. But in his prior life as an economist (Ph.D. from Harvard’s Kennedy School), Leigh published widely in the fields of public finance, labor, health, and political economy, even winning the Economic Society of Australia's Young Economist Award--a kind of John Bates Clark medal for Australians. His evolution from economist to politician must constantly evoke the following question: What is the best research approach for informing practical policy?  In his new book, Leigh leaves little doubt about his answer. Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Changed Our World (forthcoming, Yale University Press) heralds the widespread incorporation of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) into the mainstream of social science.

Weekly links May 18: P&P highlights galore, basic management vs grand strategy, can you SMS your way to social linkages, and more...

David McKenzie's picture

Informing policy with research that is more than the sum of the parts

Markus Goldstein's picture
Coauthored with Doug Parkerson

A couple of years ago, an influential paper in Science by Banerjee and coauthors looked at the impact of poverty graduation programs across 6 countries.   At the time (and probably since) this was the largest effort to look at the same(ish) intervention in multiple contexts at once – arguably solving the replication problem and proving external validity in one fell swoop.  
 

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