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Berk Ozler's blog

GiveDirectly just announced a basic income grant experiment. Here is how to make it better.

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In an article in Slate yesterday, co-founders of GiveDirectly announced that they will provide at least 6,000 people in Kenya with a basic income grant (BIG) for a period of 10-15 years, which will cost about $30 million. The proposal is scant in details at the moment, but this article in Vox suggests that dozens of villages will randomly be selected in an already selected region of Kenya for this exercise and everyone within will be given roughly a dollar a day per person for a decade.

Excuse me Mr. Can’t you see the children dying?

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In 1997, Peter Singer wrote about a dilemma he’d pose to his students about a drowning child in a pond on their way to class: “would they be willing to save the child at the cost of getting all wet, having to go back home to change, and missing the first period?” After getting the expected answer that they all would, he’d ask about a hypothetical child far away, and ways that the students could save lives elsewhere at “no great cost – and absolutely no danger – to themselves. This would lead to a discussion of a version of effective altruism two decades ago.

Friday Links: Frustrating research, Fryer's tome, sinister virus, and more...

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Teacher Turnover and Student Performance

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Selective teacher retention policies are both complex and controversial wherever they’re implemented. In Washington, DC, where I live and work, things are no different: pursuit of such policies arguably led to the early departures of a mayor and the chancellor of the public school system (DCPS). A January 2016 paper by Adnot, Dee, Katz, and Wyckoff evaluates the effect of teacher turnover under on student achievement under IMPACT, DCPS’ performance assessment and incentive system for its teachers – introduced in the 2009-10 school year (NBER WP version, gated, can be found here.

Impostor Syndrome

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Josh Ritter is one of my favorite musicians. So, imagine my joy when I saw that he was doing an essay in the middle of PBS Newshour this past Thursday – what is normally a depressing hour these days, full of bad news from Flint, South Sudan, Republican primaries and debates, and much more. The essay started with footage of him (seemingly at the 9:30 Club in DC) singing Homecoming: great.

Did you do your power calculations using standard deviations? Do them again...

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As the number of RCTs increase, it’s more common to see ex ante power calculations in study proposals. More often than not, you’ll see a statement like this: “The sample size is K clusters and n households per cluster. With this sample, the minimum detectable effect (MDE) is 0.3 standard deviations.” This, I think, is typically insufficient and can lead to wasteful spending on data collection or misallocation of resources for a given budget.

Is giving birth at home a luxury good?

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The December 31, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Snowden et al. that compared outcomes for births planned at a hospital vs. at home or at a freestanding birth center. I’ll discuss the findings and identification in a little bit (you can see the NYT article by Pam Belluck here). But, I actually want to discuss the characteristics of women who plan their births at a hospital vs. elsewhere.

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