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Jed Friedman's blog

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”.

Psychological recovery after disaster – resilience is the norm

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I’ve been reading a good bit on psychological responses to conflict and disaster for on-going work and am struck by the tone of discussion in the popular press soon after a potentially traumatic event. In these reports, trauma among the survivors is often presumed widespread and the focus is on its expected costs and consequences. However more recent academic work on this topic argues that an exclusive focus on the traumatized misses most of the story.

Do local development projects during civil conflict increase or decrease violence?

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A “hearts and minds” model of conflict posits that development aid, by bringing tangible benefits, will increase population support for the government. This increased support in turn can lead to a decrease in violence, partly through a rise in population cooperation and information sharing with the government. At least one previous observational study in Iraq found that development aid is indeed associated with a decrease in conflict.

WEIRD samples and external validity

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A core concern for any impact evaluation is the degree to which its findings can be generalized to other settings and contexts, i.e. its “external validity”. But of course external validity concerns are not unique to economic policy evaluation; in fact they are present (implicitly or explicitly) in any empirical research with prescriptive implications.

Tools of the Trade: Beyond mean decompositions (with an application to the gender wage gap in China)

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Suppose you were investigating the observed wage gap in urban China, where men are paid approximately 30% more than women. The first thing you would like to know is whether the higher wages paid to men are a result of the greater average years of schooling and years in the labor force that men have or whether, instead, men are paid more even after accounting for education and experience. If the latter situation is the case then the difference in wages may at least in part be due to labor market discrimination.

Are the Danes the happiest people in the world? Using vignettes to anchor subjective responses

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Quite often the popular press carries stories that compare happiness or life satisfaction across nations (for example see last October’s story: Denmark is Happiest Country). Regular readers of this blog will recognize these reports as summaries of research on subjective well-being (SWB) and would be somewhat skeptical of SWB comparisons across populations with very different characteristics and cultures. Why?

Well-being as seen through the regrets of the dying

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I recently read a Guardian article on the most common reported regrets from the dying and thought, “oh, that’s a good lead-in for a blog on subjective well-being.” However I see that Nic Marks at the New Economic Foundation beat me to the punch, so I link his insightful post. Nevertheless I’ll extend what he starts and add a development perspective…

The Hermeneutics of Satisfaction

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Ten years ago when I was a graduate student piloting questionnaires in rural Indonesia, I sat with a translator and an elderly farmer in his front yard. Mid-way through the interview I asked this farmer the first of several standard questions related to general well-being and life satisfaction: “Thinking about your own life and personal circumstances, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole?” The farmer stared at us with a look of bewilderment on his face. So we asked a second time in a slow sympathetic tone.

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