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Jed Friedman's blog

Multi-dimensional consequences of economic shocks: Learning from other disciplines

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This blog has previously explored the (somewhat rare) involvement of other social science disciplines in development economics research. Now a new book helps move the ball down the field a bit more. Entitled Children and Youth in Crisis, and edited by Mattias Lundberg and Alice Wuermli, the book combines various disciplinary perspectives on the impacts of economic shocks on human development.

Not all cooking stoves are created equal: Contrasting results on improved cook stove programs in recent evaluations

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Indoor smoke from cooking on an open fire has long been recognized as a major cause of ill health, especially for women and young children (those either most vulnerable or most likely to be exposed).  Improved cooking stoves represent the hopes of development professionals in that their efficient design and vented smoke should improve health, lower mortality, and reduce fuel use.

Incorporating reputational concerns in public sector reform: it may be effective but needs creative monitoring

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Public sector reforms often attempt to mimic the “discipline” of the market in order to spur better performance among service providers. Examples include numerous variants of performance based financing for health, where health providers are compensated monetarily for achievement of specified health targets. At the heart of this approach is a standard view of economic agents induced to modify behaviors through pecuniary incentives.

When to use insiders or outsiders as survey interviewers

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Researchers have long recognized the importance of choosing interviewer characteristics while designing their fieldwork – for example female interviewers are often utilized to explore topics related to domestic violence and respondents of both sexes are more likely to disclose sexual abuse to female interviewers than to male ones.  Another key consideration is the degree of familiarity between interviewer and respondent, but here the decision appears to be obvious.

The Copenhagen Consensus 2012: reflections on impact evaluation’s role in the tyranny of the known

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Very recently, the results of the third global Copenhagen Consensus were released. This is a semi-regular event self-billed as an effort to put together “the world’s smartest minds to analyze the costs and benefits of different approaches to tackling the world’s biggest problems”. This year’s consensus exercise seeks to determine the best ways of advancing welfare by “supposing that an additional $75 billion of resources were at [the experts’] disposal over a 4-year period”.

A new global data network on population and environment

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Co-authors and I are soon to complete (fingers crossed) some new work on climatic shocks and neo-natal mortality. But our findings are not the topic of this post. Rather I want to discuss the necessary behind-the-scenes data construction work that had to take place before the first regression could be estimated. The work involved the aggregation of fifty plus national level microdata sets (from Demographic and Health Surveys) and then a merger with geo-coded historical weather data (from NOAA).

CCTs usually increase schooling but few studies have found gains in test scores – what’s behind this disconnect?

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The majority of CCT programs with schooling conditions have been found to increase enrollment rates and attendance. Far fewer of the evaluations, however, report results on learning outcomes. Those that do typically find no gains in learning, at least as assessed by test scores. The 2009 CCT review report by Fiszbein, Schady, and others summarizes four studies that measure CCT impacts on learning outcomes. The first two use school-based testing data and find no impact on test scores.

Development Impact turns one – tell us what year two should look like

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As we celebrate our first year of the Development Impact blog, we thought it would be a good time to take stock and see what our readers would like in our second year. We’ve already done our survey work and RCT, so now its time for direct, self-selected, feedback from you, the reader.  We want to know:

Behind lunch choice and moral decisions: the link between attention and behavior

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Walking to the office earlier this week, I stepped right into oncoming traffic while engrossed in a conversation on the mobile phone. Usually quite mindful of my surroundings, at that point I was so preoccupied that the rules of basic traffic safety were nowhere my mind. By a funny coincidence I arrived at the office and started reading an academic paper with the attention-grabbing title “God is Watching You”.

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