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David McKenzie's blog

The impact of studying abroad - and of being made to return home again

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Studying abroad is becoming increasingly common in many countries – with almost 3 million students educated each year at the tertiary level in a country other than their own. For developing countries in particular, studying abroad offers many of the promises and fears of brain drain (both of which I think are overblown).

What are the under-researched topics in development according to young faculty?

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Berk (who is on vacation this week) and I have recently been surveying assistant professors, graduate students, and World Bank economists to learn how they find out about new research and the role of blogs in this process. We’ll be sharing results once we have finished this, but to start with, I thought I’d share this chart below on what junior faculty who work on development think are the under-researched topics.

A new overview of firm experiments

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A number of recent field experiments have been conducted within firms and across firms. In another paper in what is shaping up to be an excellent forthcoming Journal of Economic Perspectives symposia on experiments, Oriana Bandiera,Iwan Barankay and Imran Rasul give their take of what we have learned from firm experiments so far, and their ideas on further research directions.

Field experiments within firms

What are "Mechanism Experiments" and should we be doing more of them?

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In an interesting new paper, Jens Ludwig, Jeffrey Kling and Sendhil Mullainathan argue that economists should be doing more experiments to identify behavioral mechanisms, and that these can be central to policy, even if the experiments themselves are far from what a policymaker would implement. So what are these mechanism experiments, and what can we learn from them?

In defense of single project evaluations: A response to Ravallion

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Yesterday Martin Ravallion argued that the fact that much of the impact evaluation taking place involves assessing the impact of specific projects one at a time is not that helpful in assessing development impact because it doesn’t tell us about the impact of overall portfolios if there are interactions between policies or if the subset of projects which get evaluated in an overall portfolio are not a representative sample.

Power Calculations 101: Dealing with Incomplete Take-up

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A key issue in any impact evaluation is take-up (i.e. the proportion of people offered a program who use it). This is particularly an issue in many finance and private sector (FPD) programs. In many health and education programs such as vaccination campaigns or getting children to school programs, the goal of the program is actually to have all eligible individuals participate. In contrast, universal take-up is not the goal of most FPD programs, and, even when it is a goal, it is seldom the reality.