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Jed Friedman's blog

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.

What happens when the power goes out? Using blackouts to help understand the determinants of infant health

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Low birth weight, usually defined as less than 2500 grams at birth, is an important determinant of infant mortality. It is also significantly associated with adverse outcomes well into adulthood such as reduced school attainment and lower earnings. Maternal nutrition is a key determinant of low birth weight and it’s no surprise that nutrition interventions targeted at pregnant mothers can have significant impacts.

To use or not to use: Getting people to adopt new health technologies

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David has started a discussion that I find intrinsically interesting and one that well-designed impact evaluations can help clarify: why don’t more people adopt low-cost efficacious health technologies? We may be able to think of examples in our own lives – i.e. “why don’t I take vitamins more regularly?” or “why, if diabetic, don’t I self-test my blood sugar more frequently?” These same questions also resonate for large-scale health programs in many settings.

Measuring consumption (through survey)

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Markus’ s post yesterday is the first on what will be one recurring blog theme here- measurement. I’ll continue the trend today with a focus on one of the most fundamental welfare constructs in economics: consumption. Specifically, how might the development researcher accurately measure household consumption through survey?

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