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Weekly links February 17: Don’t give up on your research ideas but do give up on unwarranted policy recommendations

David Evans's picture
  • Chris Blattman provides an incentive to delay giving up on that great research idea you’ve been peddling for years in this story from the EconTalk podcast: For years, he pitched random African factory owners the idea of an RCT of factory employment. “They’d usually look at me kind of funny. They wouldn’t leap at the possibility. I was just this person they met on a plane.” One day it worked, and six weeks later he was randomizing applicants.

Why Do Harmful Norms Persist? Female Genital Cutting in Burkina Faso: Guest post by Lindsey Novak

This is the fifteenth in our series of job market posts this year. 
For better or for worse, social norms have profound influence on many of the decisions we make—from political to personal. These norms can be particularly influential when it comes to making decisions surrounding child rearing, including the decision parents make to participate in the practice of female genital cutting (FGC). Parents living in communities that practice FGC—located primarily in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia—decide whether or not their daughter will undergo FGC based on social pressure and the perceived costs and benefits of adhering to or deviating from the social norm.
The practice has no known medical benefits, and it is associated with a wide range of health complications, both physical and psychological. Women who undergo FGC are more than twice as likely to experience birthing complications (Jones et al., 1999), and are 25 percent more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases (Wagner, 2014). In addition, women who have undergone FGC are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Dorkenoo, 1999;  Behrendt & Moritz, 2005). These health complications make working in and outside of the household more difficult.

In Sub-Saharan African, as malaria rolls back, human capital moves forward: Guest post by Maria Kuecken

This is the eleventh in our job market paper series this year. 

Malaria is preventable and treatable – but it is still deadly. In 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria and an estimated 438,000 deaths. Nearly nine in ten cases occur in Sub-Saharan African, and the direct and indirect costs of this burden are high.

Traveling with ease, carrying disease? Using mobile phone data to reduce malaria: Guest post by Sveta Milusheva

This is the eighth in our series of job market posts this year
The Global Fund has disbursed nearly $28.4 billion in the last decade to reduce the disease burden from malaria, TB and HIV (Global Fund 2016). However, travelers can reverse the progress from campaigns that have decreased infectious disease prevalence (Cohen 2012 et al, Lu et al 2014), or can rapidly spread emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika (Tam et al 2016, Bogoch et al 2016). While policymakers have largely targeted environmental drivers of malaria, this research provides evidence that human movement can play an important role in spreading disease in areas where incidence has been reduced.  Given that migration has numerous economic and social benefits, policymakers face important trade-offs in designing policies to reduce travel-linked malaria cases.  This paper provides a useful framework for identifying high-risk populations in order to reduce malaria incidence with minimal interference to movement patterns.

Cash transfers and health: It matters when you measure, and it matters how many health care workers are around to provide services

David Evans's picture

This post was co-authored with Katrina Kosec of IFPRI.

A whirlwind, surely incomplete tour of cash transfer impacts on health
Your run-of-the-mill conditional cash transfer (CCT) program has significant impacts on health-seeking behavior. Specifically, there are conditions (or co-responsibilities, if you prefer) that children get to school and/or that they get vaccinated or have some wellness visits. While the school enrollment effects are well established, the effects on both health seeking behavior and on health outcomes have been much more mixed. CCTs have led to better child nutritional status and improved child cognitive development in Nicaragua, better nutritional outcomes for a subset of children in Colombia, and had no impacts for child health in studies on Brazil and Honduras. CCTs conditioned only on school enrollment did not lower HIV infections among adolescent girls in South Africa; and in Indonesia CCTs increased health visits but did not translate into measurably improved health. Unconditional cash transfer programs have also had mixed results on health, with better mental health and food consumption in Kenya, better anthropometric outcomes for girls (not boys) in South Africa, no average impacts (although some for the poorest quarter) on child outcomes in Ecuador, and no average impacts on maternal health care utilization in Zambia (albeit yes effects for women with better access to such services).

Is giving birth at home a luxury good?

Berk Ozler's picture

The December 31, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Snowden et al. that compared outcomes for births planned at a hospital vs. at home or at a freestanding birth center. I’ll discuss the findings and identification in a little bit (you can see the NYT article by Pam Belluck here). But, I actually want to discuss the characteristics of women who plan their births at a hospital vs. elsewhere.

The trade-off of spousal secrets in family planning: Guest post by Aine McCarthy

This is the eleventh in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

When men desire nearly three times as many additional children as their wives and possess most of the decision-making power in the household, the stark difference in fertility preferences leads to excess fertility and welfare losses for wives.

Pollution, worker efficiency and the role of management: Evidence from India

Markus Goldstein's picture
In a nice, recent paper Achyuta Adhvaryu, Namrata Kala, and Anant Nyshadham take a look at how air pollution hurts productivity and what effect, if any, managers can have in mitigating these effects.   The short answer is yes, pollution hurts worker productivity, and yes, managers with certain qualities do a better job of mitigating these effects as they manage their workers.   That’s the short story, but how they get there is quite fascinating.