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Jed Friedman's blog

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.

Tools of the Trade: estimating correct standard errors in small sample cluster studies, another take

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For many years, researchers have recognized the need to correct standard error estimates for observational dependence within clusters. An earlier post contrasted the typical approach to this matter, the cluster robust standard error (CRSE), and various methods to cluster bootstrap the standard error.

Sadness interfering with work: depression and labor supply in developing countries

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If economists view mental health as one component of human capital, as we typically view physical health, then it’s a natural step to the corollary view that good mental health leads to productivity enhancing behaviors such as increased labor supply, greater effort, enhanced concentration, and so on. Given its productive role perhaps mental health, often neglected in the policy realm, deserves more attention. Unfortunately there are precious few studies till date that actually establish such a link between psychological health and productivity.

Job satisfaction matters … and the measurement of job satisfaction matters

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Worker job satisfaction has been linked to salient measures of performance such as productivity, absenteeism, and workforce turnover. As such it is a construct that economists care about. I’ve recently reviewed research on the determinants of job satisfaction in order to prepare for a study on pay-for-performance reforms in the health sector. And I’ve found a few surprises…

End of year review: Malaria is declining, and IE should help address the remaining challenges

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A conference on access to malaria medicine recently held at the World Bank offered many substantive studies – and I will discuss some in detail in the new year. However with my last post of 2011 I’d like to end the year on some good news (even if the news is only partially related to impact evaluation).

Tools of the Trade: Getting those standard errors correct in small sample cluster studies

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Some of the earliest posts on this blog concerned the inferential challenges of cluster randomized trials when clusters are few in number (see here and here for two examples of discussion). Today’s post continues this theme with a focus on better practice in the treatment of standard errors.

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