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Jed Friedman's blog

What is the “good life”? Can we measure it?

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Material consumption is the basis of traditional welfare measurement in economic practice. For example

-          In standard economic models, an individual’s investment choices are often determined with respect to the discounted streams of expected lifetime consumption under different scenarios.

The promise of participatory women’s groups in South Asia: Can education and empowerment save lives?

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Each year almost 4 million children die within the first four weeks of life, many from preventable or treatable causes. Much programmatic aid is now devoted to devising ways to ensure that simple effective health practices, such as ensuring a more sterile birth environment, are adopted on a wide scale. A number of recent evaluations from South Asia suggest that the active involvement of local women’s groups in problem solving can be among the most cost-effective interventions to prevent deaths.

Questions around consent in cluster impact evaluations

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The basic principles of ethical research as laid out in the Belmont Report include “respect for persons”, which stipulates that all individuals should be treated as autonomous agents. Typically this principle is translated into practice with a statement read to all study subjects concerning the voluntary nature of study participation and the freedom to withhold consent. These ethical guidelines largely derive from medical trials where individual targeting of an intervention such as an experimental drug is typical.

Reporting from the International Health Economics Association 8th World Congress

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I’m currently attending this large conference in lovely Toronto and trying to pack-in as many sessions as possible. A handful of papers have stood out to me – two evaluations of on-going pay-for-performance schemes in health and two methodological papers related to the economics of obesity.

The ethics of a control group in randomized impact evaluations – the start of an ongoing discussion

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Last year the British Medical Journal published the results of an impact evaluation of local immunization campaigns with and without incentives in rural India. Full immunization rates were very low in the study area (2%) and the researchers wanted to test two nested approaches to improving participation in immunization campaigns.

Sometimes it is ethical to lie to your study subjects

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A recent article in the New York Times describes a “stealth survey” to measure the difficulties in accessing timely health care. This U.S. government sponsored survey involves a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as potential patients on the phone in order to measure the efforts required to schedule a doctor’s appointment as a new patient.

What makes health workers get up in the morning? Paying-for-performance and worker motivation

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Economists have long noted that the price mechanism can be effective at modifying human behavior. Psychologists classify this aspect of behavior motivation as extrinsic motivation, meaning that the behavior is induced by external pressure. If I increase my hours worked due to an overtime premium then I can be said to exhibit extrinsic motivation - I am responding to the price schedule offered me. In contrast to extrinsic motivation, psychologists posit intrinsic motivation as arising from within the individual.

Fruit Salad, Chocolate Cake, Cognitive Control, and Poverty

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In a psychology experiment from 15 years ago, participants were asked to remember a number – the number was randomly selected to either be a short two digit number or a seven digit number – and then to walk down a hallway to another room for an interview. As a seeming afterthought, they were told there is a snack cart in the hallway and to help themselves to one of the snacks. The snack choice was either fruit salad or chocolate cake.

Verifying the performance in pay-for-performance: What little we know and how we can learn

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Numerous recent discussions on the future of development financing focus on the delivery of results and how to mainstream accounting for results in aid flows (see here for one review paper by Nemat Shafik). This “results based approach” to aid is gathering steam in many contexts.

Speak to the computer: the promise and challenges of measuring secrets through computer assisted interview

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Markus’s previous post on the measurement of sensitive information has started the ball rolling on a major topic that we all confront in field work – accurate measurement. This is an especially acute issue for studies that investigate socially undesirable or stigmatized behaviors such as risky sexual practices or illegal activities.

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