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David McKenzie's blog

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:

Weekly links December 19: Savings, basic incomes, skill gaps & M&Ms, and more…

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  • On the FAI blog Tim Ogden discusses what we mean by savings when we talk about it as an outcome.
  • A snapshot of the job market this year from 538 – what the next generation of economists is working on? Development is pretty popular, corporate finance and international economics not so much.
  • Testing basic incomes: the Guardian reports on an experiment in India, where Unicef funded an unconditional basic income scheme. A “modified randomized control trial” (whatever that is) assigned everyone in 8 treatment villages to receive a monthly income for 18 months, with 12 control villages: “the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work. Conventional labour statistics would have picked that up inadequately. There was a big increase in secondary economic activities, as well as a shift from casual wage labour to own-account farming and small-scale business” Haven’t come across an academic paper with the results or more details.

Weekly links December 12: risk and entrepreneurship, changing opinions, IE in times of crisis, and more…

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  • A new 3ie paper on methods for doing impact evaluations of humanitarian assistance (h/t Chris Blattman): “Since 2005, more than US$90 billion has been spent on humanitarian assistance….Yet, very few impact evaluations are being conducted.”
  • With job market season upon us, Chris Blattman offers his advice for negotiating an academic job offer.
  • A new paper in Science this week shows how contact with minorities can change opinions: “LaCour and Green demonstrate that simply a 20-minute conversation with a gay canvasser produced a large and sustained shift in attitudes toward same-sex marriage for Los Angeles County residents. Surveys showed persistent change up to 9 months after the initial conversation. Indeed, the magnitude of the shift for the person who answered the door was as large as the difference between attitudes in Georgia and Massachusetts.”

Weekly links December 5: how to do research, corruption at borders, work for me, and more…

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  • From the Chronicle of Higher Education - How sociologists made themselves irrelevant -  “sociologists have become distant spectators rather than shapers of policy. In the effort to keep ourselves academically pure, we’ve also become largely irrelevant in molding the most important social enterprises of our era”. Also it ends with two smell tests that are relevant to development economists too “If you end up with findings that have policy implications that you would never dream of advocating for yourself or your loved ones, be wary of them.”

Weekly links: recording surveys, institutions and growth, business experimentation, and more…

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Blog links November 7: Impact Evaluation Existential Angst, Our Innate Grasp of Probability, big data, and More…

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