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David McKenzie's blog

Weekly links May 12: the ‘stans, how publishing might hurt you, list experiment discussion, and more…

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Weekly links May 5: an econometrics bonanza, charter schools, Chinese inequality, and more…

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A cynic’s take on papers with novel methods to improve transparency

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What is the signal we should infer from a paper using a novel method that is marketed as a way to improve transparency in research?

I got to thinking about this issue when seeing a lot of reactions on twitter like “Awesome John List!”, “This is brilliant”,etc. about a new paper by Luigi Butera and John List that investigates in a lab experiment how cooperation in an allocation game is affected by Knightian uncertainty/ambiguity. Contrary to what the authors had expected, they find adding uncertainty increases cooperation. The bit they are getting plaudits for is then the following in the introduction:

Weekly links April 28: how many qual interviews are needed, enterprise-academic collaboration, work for me, and more…

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Weekly links April 21: hostile attitudes to random assignment, scaling up, we make it easier to search the blog, contagious exercise, and more…

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Weekly links March 31: inequality across firms and within households, measuring farm labor, should we fund research by lottery, and more…

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  • In the Harvard Business Review, Nick Bloom discusses how a lot of inequality is getting driven by differences between firms: “companies are paying more to get more: boosting salaries to recruit top talent or to add workers with sought-after skills. The result is that highly skilled and well-educated workers flock to companies that can afford to offer generous salaries, benefits, and perks — and further fuel their companies’ momentum. Employees in less-successful companies continue to be poorly paid and their companies fall further behind”
  • Vox EU piece by Brown, van de Walle and Ravallion summarizing their work in two recent papers on the difficulties in targeting the poor “about three-quarters of underweight women and undernourished children are not found in the poorest 20% of households. This is consistent with evidence of considerable intra-household inequality”

Weekly links March 24: why those of us in our 40s matter so much, an ALMP program that may be working, more CSAE round-ups, and more…

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The Iron Law of ALMPs: Offer a Program to 100 People, maybe 2 get jobs

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I have just finished writing up and expanding my recent policy talk on active labor market policies (ALMPs) into a research paper (ungated version) which provides a critical overview of impact evaluations on this topic. While my talk focused more on summarizing a lot of my own work on this topic, for this review paper I looked a lot more into the growing number of randomized experiments evaluating these policies in developing countries. Much of this literature is very new: out of the 24 RCTs I summarize results from in several tables, 16 were published in 2015 or later, and only one before 2011.

I focus on three main types of ALMPs: vocational training programs, wage subsidies, and job search assistance services like screening and matching. I’ll summarize a few findings and implications for evaluations that might be of most interest to our blog readers – the paper then, of course, provides a lot more detail and discusses more some of the implications for policy and for other types of ALMPs.

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