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David McKenzie's blog

Evaluating an Argentine regional tourism policy using synthetic controls: tan linda que enamora?

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In 2003, the Argentine province of Salta launched a new tourism development policy with the explicit objective of boosting regional development. This included improving tourism and transport infrastructure, restoring historical and cultural heritage areas, tax credits for the construction and remodeling of hotels, and a major promotion campaign at the national and international levels.

Weekly links February 13: Cricket, Harry Potter, vaccine initiatives, and more…

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Weekly links Feb 6, 2015: research transparency, reliable 9% response rates, protests as a constraint to power, and more…

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  • Ted Miguel is teaching a course on research transparency methods in the social sciences. Berkeley is posting the lectures on YouTube. Lecture 1 is now up.
  • Chris Blattman on a paper looking at how the tendency to publish null results varies by scientific field.
  • In Science, Jorge Guzman and Scott Stern on predicting entrepreneurial quality
  • Ben Olken’s forthcoming JEP paper on pre-analysis plans in economics: this is a very nuanced and well-written piece, discussing both pros and cons – it notes a reaction I am increasingly persuaded by, which is that RCTs don’t really seem to have a lot of data-mining problems in the first place…and also that “most of these papers are too complicated to be fully pre-specified ex-ante”…main conclusion is benefits are highest from pre-specifying just a few key primary outcomes, and for specifying heterogeneity analysis and econometric specifications – less clear for specifying causal chain/mechanisms/secondary outcomes which can too easily get too complicated/conditional.

Tools of the Trade: a joint test of orthogonality when testing for balance

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This is a very simple (and for once short) post, but since I have been asked this question quite a few times by people who are new to doing experiments, I figured it would be worth posting. It is also useful for non-experimental comparisons of a treatment and a control group.

Measured Profit is not Welfare or is it? Intriguing evidence from when microfinance clients gave up microfinance

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I finally got around to reading an intriguing paper by Banerjee, Duflo and Hornbeck that has been on my reading list for a while. This paper is a nice example of making lemonade out of lemons – they had intended to evaluate a health insurance product that a microfinance organization in India made mandatory for its clients in selected villages.

Weekly links January 30: working from home redux, privacy, p-values and more…

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  • HBR provides an update on the working from home experiment done by Nick Bloom and co-authors. This experiment worked with China’s largest travel agency, and randomly choose workers to be allowed to work from home. They find workers are more productive when they do so. The interesting new finding is that when, at the end of the experiment, the treatment group was given a choice “half of the home-workers changed their minds and returned to the office and three quarters of the control group — who had initially all requested to work from home — decided to stay in the office” – the authors find it is the most productive workers who prefer to work from home.

Weekly links January 23: aid vs conflict, nudging Guatemalans, how the poor think, and more…

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  • Soap Operas and Development: Business Week summarizes a lot of recent work and some ongoing work on using soap operas to change behaviors.
  • When the nudge unit went to Guatemala – results from efforts to increase tax collection from changes in the phrasing of tax letters etc.
  • The Deliberative Lives Project: “The goal of the project is to do something similar as “Portfolios of the Poor” or “Economic Lives of the Poor”, but for thoughts and decisions. A novel feature is that everyone can contribute to design and data analysis: the (de-identified) data will be posted online in real-time as it is collected, and anyone can download and analyze it. Similarly, questionnaires will be developed with input from anyone who wants to give it.”

 

Blog links Jan 9 2015: Angrist and Niederle on pre-analysis, problems of phase-ins, French-speaking field coordinators needed, and more…

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  • Field coordinator position: we are looking for a French speaker to help oversee surveys of informal firms in Benin. TOR and details.
  • Field coordinator position: three positions for French speakers to work with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab on Youth Employment projects.
  • Call for papers: the annual bank conference on Africa, to be held June 8-9 at Berkeley – submissions due Jan 31.

Notes from the AEAs: Present bias 20 years on + Should we give up on S.D.s for Effect Size?

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I just got back from the annual meetings of the American Economic Association (AEAs) in Boston. It’s been a couple of years since I last went, and after usually going to just development conferences, it was interesting to see some of the work going on in other fields. Here are a few notes:
 

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