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David McKenzie's blog

The Tyranny of Anecdotes: Bill Easterly’s new book

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Bill Easterly’s new book “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor” is a meandering mélange of anecdotes, parts of Why Nations Fail, and miscellaneous pages from human rights reports, sprinkled with history of economic thought, non sequiturs about one block in New York, finally mixed with some sharper critiques of Thomas Friedman and discussion of the difficulties of measuring the relationship between autocracy and growth.

The Impact of Vocational Training for the Unemployed in Turkey: an inside look at my latest paper

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My latest working paper (joint with Sarojini Hirschleifer, Rita Almeida and Cristobal Ridao-Cano) presents results from an impact evaluation of a large-scale vocational training program for the unemployed in Turkey. I thought I’d briefly summarize the study, and then discuss a few aspects that may be of more general interest.

The study

Ethical Validity Response #2: Is random assignment really that unacceptable or uncommon?

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In his post this week on ethical validity in research, Martin Ravallion writes:
 “Scaled-up programs almost never use randomized assignment so the RCT has a different assignment mechanism, and this may be contested ethically even when the full program is fine.”

Lotteries aren’t so exotic

Surveying in countries with too many zeros in their currency

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I’m working on an impact evaluation in Colombia right now, and we are in the process of looking at baseline data from firms. The data are a bit noisy at the moment, and part of what makes it hard for me to look at is that many of the costs are in the millions (e.g. an energy bill of 1,442,990). The exchange rate currently is 1USD = 2055 Colombian pesos.

Weekly links February 28: Malaria not so bad after all, people don’t mind if you only give stuff to their neighbors, and more…

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  • Reminder: Today (Friday 28th) is the deadline for submissions to the World Bank’s ABCDE conference. While the title of the conference is “The Role of Theory in Development Economics”, they are looking for a broad range of “papers on innovative ways that analytical and deductive methods, as well as issues of methodology such as the use of randomizations, can be used in development.”.

Yikes, not only is it hard for us to do experiments with firms, it can be really hard for firms to experiment on themselves

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I came across a new working paper written by researchers at Google and Microsoft with the title “on the near impossibility of measuring the returns to advertising”. They begin by noting the astounding statistic that annual US advertising revenue is $173 billion, or about $500 per American per year. That’s right, more than the GDP per capita of countries like Burundi, Madagascar and Eritrea is spent just on advertising!

A Curated List of Our Postings on Technical Topics – Your One-Stop Shop for Methodology

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Rather than the usual list of Friday links, this week I thought I’d follow up on our post by Guido Imbens yesterday on clustering and post earlier this week by Dave Evans on Hawthorne effects with a curated list of our technical postings, to serve as a one-stop shop for your technical reading.

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