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David McKenzie's blog

Three new papers on measuring stuff that is difficult to measure

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There are a number of things we would like to measure for which a direct question may be refused or met with an inaccurate answer. Three new papers demonstrate some of the methods that can be used to help overcome these problems.

Paper 1: List randomization for measuring illegal migration

Weekly links June 27: badly managed Indian schools, evaluating peace-building, the perils of misunderstanding significance, new power calculations, and more…

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  • In the LSE Centrepiece, Renata Lemos and Daniela Scur have a short piece summarizing new results from measuring management in retail, health, education and manufacturing in India: “In retail, the top 10% of Indian stores are better managed than 40% of US stores and 57% of UK stores. But in education, only 8% of US schools and 1% of UK schools are less well managed than the best 10% of Indian schools.”

How good is the AEJ Applied for Development papers?

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In 2009 the American Economic Association launched four new journals. Over the past five years, the American Economic Journal Applied Economics (AEJ Applied), edited by development economist Esther Duflo, has published a number of development papers related to impact evaluations.

Friday links June 21: measuring the cost of microfinance, cost-ineffective monitoring, new Stata commands, and more…

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  • On the FAI blog, Jonathan Morduch discusses the problems of trying to measure the cost of microfinance and why the profession underfocuses on costs – “if you’re not the kind of person who gets pleasure from filling out income tax forms, you’re probably not the kind of person who enjoys calculating microfinance subsidies”.

Friday links June 15: unpopular financial education, long-term impacts of CCTs, how to increase charitable giving, and more…

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  • On the IDB First steps blog, evidence from CCT programs that the long-term impacts are greater when kids get this in the womb and in their first two years of life versus even when aged 2 to 5: children who were exposed to the CCT while in-utero and during the first two years of life score 0.15 standard deviations higher in the cognitive development assessment than those boys who were exposed to the program when they were 2 to 5 years old.

Long-term effects of a short-term boost to savings – are mental accounts the key to why more small businesses don’t take advantage of high returns?

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Standard economic theory would suggest that a one-time infusion of cash should have at most a temporary effect on business profitability – over time, individuals facing high returns should be able to re-invest business profits and bit-by-bit bootstrap themselves up to the steady-state size. Yet in an experiment I did with Suresh de Mel and Chris Woodruff in Sri Lanka, we find a one-time grant has sustained impacts five years later on male microenterprise owners.

Doing Experiments with Socially Good but Privately Bad Treatments

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Most experiments in development economics involve giving the treatment group something they want (e.g. cash, health care, schooling for their kids) or at least offering something they might want and can choose whether or not to take up (e.g. business training, financial education). Indeed among the most common justifications for randomization is that there is not enough of the treatment for everyone who wants it, leading to oversubscription or randomized phase-in designs.

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