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David McKenzie's blog

Weekly links Feb 10: the robustness in small samples fallacy, high growth firms, videos of recent talks, and more…

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Targeting which informal firms might formalize and bringing them into the tax system

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I have worked for a while with different attempts to get informal firms to register their businesses and become formal. We have tried giving them information and actually paying them to formalize, lowering the cost of registering to zero, offering them accountants and increasing enforcement.

Weekly links February 3rd: Being a better referee, undergraduate econometrics, stopping Mexican migration didn’t help U.S. workers, and more…

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  • In the latest JEP, how to write an effective referee report: With three specific recommendations: I) Make clear the contribution, and give appropriate value to innovative work: “The importance of a contribution can be undervalued in some cases by referees and editors. After all, papers that are more ambitious are often more likely to have loose ends, which gives referees and editors a reason to avoid taking a chance on them” II) divide comments into two clearly demarcated sections: 1) problems that make the paper unpublishable, which (if revision is invited) must be addressed before the paper is publishable; and 2) problems that are not essential for the publishability of the paper, which should labeled as “suggestions.”; and III) In making requests of authors, weigh the costs of the request. It is not enough that a particular request will improve the paper. The benefits must exceed the costs, so that the improvement has positive net present value. Since the author bears the costs, it is easy for a referee to make absurd demands thoughtlessly. Don’t.” – and finally, after receiving multiple 5+ page referee reports recently, I agree with “Unless a referee needs to make extremely technical points, 2–3 pages should be sufficient.”

Weekly links Jan 27: Eek your ongoing study makes the news, imperfect instruments, technology beats corruption, and more…

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Weekly links January 19: Five hour interviews are fun, no to industrial policy, college mobility, and more…

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  • Interview with Mark Rosenzweig: “One of the advantages of studying developing countries is that it’s cheap to collect data and the response rates are much higher than in the United States. I’ve helped lead a survey in the U.S. of 8,500 households — it cost $23 million. In India, where the questionnaire is probably eight times longer, the total cost is about $750,000... Five hours is a substantial commitment of time, what’s the response rate? Our response would be somewhere around 90%. People enjoy telling you about their stuff. I’ve surveyed a lot of farmers in India and they want to show you everything. They enjoy it. People there value their time differently than we do. In most villages there are no cinemas or shopping centers there. There’s no television. They enjoy talking to people. That’s different than here. We all have better things to do than sitting down and answering silly questions over the phone, let alone allowing somebody into your house. Sitting down and talking to people is an interesting activity for these folks.”

Weekly links Jan 13: taking on the curse of the top 5, underpowered economics, where to for tax research, and more…

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  • A webcast of the AEA panel on “publishing in economics journals: the curse of the top 5” (h/t @DurRobert) – Heckman, Akelof, Deaton, Fudenberg and Hansen discuss. Some interesting discussion and comments – Deaton notes he didn’t have any papers rejected until he was famous; Heckman had a lot of data, including this one which shows (first column) which journals account for most dissemination of the ideas of the top development economists – with WBER number 1:

We gave Sri Lankan microenterprises wage subsidies to hire workers: 8 years after starting, here’s what happened

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In my very first experiment, Suresh de Mel, Chris Woodruff, and I gave small grants of capital to microenterprises in Sri Lanka. We found that these one-time grants had lasting impacts on firm profitability for male owners. However, despite these increases in firm profits, few owners made the leap from self-employed to hiring others.
In 2008 we therefore started a new experiment with a different group of Sri Lankan microenterprises, trying to see if we could help them make this transition to becoming employers. Eight years later, I’m delighted to finally have a working paper out with the results.

Weekly Links January 6: power calcs, dual careers, substitutes to replication, and more…

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Happy new year. I imagine many of our readers are at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association today. Good luck to all the job-seekers, and for those not there, looking through the program is always a good way to see a broad overview of current research. Some links that caught my attention over the break are:

Weekly links December 23: Bystander effects, causality, some nice profiles, and more holiday reading…

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This is our last post of the year, so happy holidays to all our readers. Thanks to everyone who contributed to our job market series, and good luck to those on the job market. We will resume again in early January. In the meantime, here is some holiday reading:

Weekly links December 9: A buyers guide to machine learning, M-Pesa and poverty, spurious correlations, and more…

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