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David McKenzie's blog

Weekly links December 12: risk and entrepreneurship, changing opinions, IE in times of crisis, and more…

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  • A new 3ie paper on methods for doing impact evaluations of humanitarian assistance (h/t Chris Blattman): “Since 2005, more than US$90 billion has been spent on humanitarian assistance….Yet, very few impact evaluations are being conducted.”
  • With job market season upon us, Chris Blattman offers his advice for negotiating an academic job offer.
  • A new paper in Science this week shows how contact with minorities can change opinions: “LaCour and Green demonstrate that simply a 20-minute conversation with a gay canvasser produced a large and sustained shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage for Los Angeles County residents. Surveys showed persistent change up to 9 months after the initial conversation. Indeed, the magnitude of the shift for the person who answered the door was as large as the difference between attitudes in Georgia and Massachusetts.”

Weekly links December 5: how to do research, corruption at borders, work for me, and more…

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  • From the Chronicle of Higher Education - How sociologists made themselves irrelevant -  “sociologists have become distant spectators rather than shapers of policy. In the effort to keep ourselves academically pure, we’ve also become largely irrelevant in molding the most important social enterprises of our era”. Also it ends with two smell tests that are relevant to development economists too “If you end up with findings that have policy implications that you would never dream of advocating for yourself or your loved ones, be wary of them.”

Weekly links: recording surveys, institutions and growth, business experimentation, and more…

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Blog links November 7: Impact Evaluation Existential Angst, Our Innate Grasp of Probability, big data, and More…

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A Call for Innovative Ideas on SME Growth

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I wanted to alert our readers to a new competition for ideas of how to best foster Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) growth.  Typically with impact evaluation we end up evaluating a program that others have designed, or working with the occasional bank or NGO that is willing to try a new idea, but usually with firms that are very small in size.  What is missing is a space where people with innovative ideas can get them into the hands of governments designing SME programs. I am working with the new Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank to try to do something new here, to give researchers and operational staff with ideas the chance to get them to a stage where they can become part of World Bank projects, and thereby have the potential to be implemented at much larger scale on lots of SMEs.

Blog links October 31: Frightful ethics? Ghastly preferences, Spooky Stata help, and more…

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  • From the Stata blog: how to put the Stata user manuals on your ipad.
  • Chris Blattman discusses the controversy surrounding a field experiment being done by political scientists in the Montana election – much of the controversy seems very odd to a development economist –especially a concern that political scientists might actually be doing research that could affect politics….Dan Drezner notes the irony “political scientists appear to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t conduct experiments. In the absence of experimental methods, the standard criticism of political science is that it’s not really a science because of [INSERT YOUR PREJUDICE OF CHOICE AGAINST THE SOCIAL SCIENCES HERE]. The presence of experimental methods, however, threatens to send critics into a new and altogether more manic forms of “POLITICAL SCIENTISTS ARE PLAYING GOD!!” panic.”

A Technology Letdown: Efforts at using RFID technology to track microenterprise inventories

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Measuring microenterprise profits is hard. Most owners of these small firms keep no records and have very volatile incomes.  Asking firm owners what their profits are can lead to high refusal rates, noisy data, trouble with recall, and then there is the added concern that reporting may change with interventions  (either because an intervention like business training changes recording, or because people who get given finance may want you to think it has benefited them).

It’s Time Again for Submissions for our Annual Blog Your Job Market Paper Series

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We are pleased to launch for the fourth year a call for PhD students on the job market to blog their job market paper on the Development Impact blog.  We welcome blog posts on anything related to empirical development work, impact evaluation, or measurement. For examples, you can see posts from 2013 and 2012. We will follow the same process as previous years, which is as follows:
We will start accepting submissions immediately, with the goal of publishing them in November and early December when people are deciding who to interview. Below are the rules that you must follow, followed by some guidance/tips you should follow:
 

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