I’ve been meaning to read for the last month this new paper by Orazio Attanasio and co-authors, which is the latest in the still small number of studies to carry out a randomized experiment to measure the impact of microfinance. David Roodman was quick to give his thoughts on it in this post, but I thought I’d also summarize it briefly for you and offer my thoughts.
Poor households in rural areas are exposed to substantial weather shocks that can generate great fluctuations in income and consumption if insurance markets are not complete (Dercon and Christiaensen 2011, etc.).
I thought I’d kick-start what I hope will be a somewhat regular feature on this blog, which is some insights, observations, and general glimpses of the real world encountered as we work on implementing new impact evaluations. I know some of our readers take umbrage with the term “the field” but I’m sure it is preferred to “Mission musings” , although maybe “Random rambling” might be appropriate.
Saving is hard for most people (unless you’re Chinese or German it seems). A typical approach to encourage savings might be to emphasize all the good reasons to save (children’s education, healthcare needs, retirement, etc.) and set savings goals for these reasons.
IPA's Microsavings and Payments Innovation Initiative (MPIII) has just launched a call for expressions of interest-
We know funding is often a major issue for people with good ideas looking to get started doing impact evaluations, so are happy to advertise new opportunities for funding as they become available - just let us know if you have money you want to give out!
This blog has now featured a healthy debate between researchers advocating randomized evaluations and those cautioning the overuse of such methods. One point that I believe both sides would agree on is that irrespective of which empirical methods we use, it is important to understand and analyze the causal chain of impact. Such analysis can greatly enhance the external validity of any evaluation.
A number of recent field experiments have been conducted within firms and across firms. In another paper in what is shaping up to be an excellent forthcoming Journal of Economic Perspectives symposia on experiments, Oriana Bandiera,Iwan Barankay and Imran Rasul give their take of what we have learned from firm experiments so far, and their ideas on further research directions.
Field experiments within firms
Diseases like malaria, diarrhea and intestinal worms plague hundreds of millions of people in the developing world. A major puzzle for development researchers and practitioners is why the poor do not purchase available prevention technologies that could reduce the burden of these diseases. While much of the recent literature has focused on price elasticities of demand and behavioral explanations, another potential explanation is that liquidity constraints prevent the poor from undertaking profitable health investments.
More than Good Intentions: How a new economics is helping to solve global poverty is a personalized helicopter tour of many recent randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in developing countries. It is written by Dean Karlan, who has been a researcher in many of these experiments, and Jacob Appel, who worked for Dean in implementing many of these experiments in Ghana.