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David McKenzie's blog

Blog links October 31: Frightful ethics? Ghastly preferences, Spooky Stata help, and more…

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  • From the Stata blog: how to put the Stata user manuals on your ipad.
  • Chris Blattman discusses the controversy surrounding a field experiment being done by political scientists in the Montana election – much of the controversy seems very odd to a development economist –especially a concern that political scientists might actually be doing research that could affect politics….Dan Drezner notes the irony “political scientists appear to be damned if they do and damned if they don’t conduct experiments. In the absence of experimental methods, the standard criticism of political science is that it’s not really a science because of [INSERT YOUR PREJUDICE OF CHOICE AGAINST THE SOCIAL SCIENCES HERE]. The presence of experimental methods, however, threatens to send critics into a new and altogether more manic forms of “POLITICAL SCIENTISTS ARE PLAYING GOD!!” panic.”

A Technology Letdown: Efforts at using RFID technology to track microenterprise inventories

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Measuring microenterprise profits is hard. Most owners of these small firms keep no records and have very volatile incomes.  Asking firm owners what their profits are can lead to high refusal rates, noisy data, trouble with recall, and then there is the added concern that reporting may change with interventions  (either because an intervention like business training changes recording, or because people who get given finance may want you to think it has benefited them).

It’s Time Again for Submissions for our Annual Blog Your Job Market Paper Series

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We are pleased to launch for the fourth year a call for PhD students on the job market to blog their job market paper on the Development Impact blog.  We welcome blog posts on anything related to empirical development work, impact evaluation, or measurement. For examples, you can see posts from 2013 and 2012. We will follow the same process as previous years, which is as follows:
We will start accepting submissions immediately, with the goal of publishing them in November and early December when people are deciding who to interview. Below are the rules that you must follow, followed by some guidance/tips you should follow:

Testing different behavioral approaches to get people to attend business training

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A while back I blogged about work using active choice and enhanced active choice to get people to get flu shots and prescription refills. The basic idea here is that relatively small modifications to the way a choice is presented can have large impacts on the take-up of a program. This seemed useful in the context of many of our training programs– attendance rates averaged 65 percent in a review of business training programs I did with Chris Woodruff. Therefore for an ongoing evaluation of the GET AHEAD business training program in Kenya, we decided to test out this approach.

Weekly links October 17: how to do organizational change, extortion and schooling, what’s new in microfinance evidence, and more…

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Insuring small firms against big political and economic risks: an experiment in post-revolution Egypt

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The Arab Spring brought about a wave of joy in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa as repressive regimes that had ruled for years were overthrown. But the aftermath brought about considerable turmoil and uncertainty as to what was going to happen in many countries. In Egypt, the immediate aftermath of the January 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak included closing the stock market for 55 days, curfews of up to 18 hours a day, and an interim government under the control of the Armed Forces.

Weekly links October 3: self-control, attitudes vs behavior, IE and poverty, and more…

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  • Self-control and worker productivity: In the Upshot, Sendhil Mullainathan summarizes his experiment in India that found that piece-rate data entry workers benefited as much from signing a commitment contract that punished them if they didn’t hit a target as they would from a 50 percent pay raise.