In response to an earlier blog post on marketing experiments, we noted that young creative researchers are working with NGOs to try out new innovative ways to alleviate poverty and spur development. A reader wrote with the following question:
I have been thinking about marriage recently. No, not about my own marital status, but marriage among school-age girls and its effects on future outcomes… While many arguments are made to curb teen marriages (and pregnancies), it is not clear whether these events themselves are the cause of poor future outcomes or they are simply correlated with other background characteristics that are prognostic of future outcomes. A brief survey of the literature indeed suggests that the evidence is mixed; especially when it comes to the effects of teen childbearing on future outcomes.
My last post discussed an example of a system intervention (improvements to the pharmaceutical supply chain) and the not uncommon inferential challenge of low power from relatively few units of observation.
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.
Update: Lant Pritchett has kindly responded to my invitation and posted his thoughts: "No need for unmet need." Check out the comments section.
A quick look at the burgeoning literature on policy evaluations will reveal a preponderance of evaluations of demand side schemes such as conditional cash transfers. There is an obvious reason for this beyond the promise that such interventions hold: the technology of treatment allows for large sample randomized evaluations, either at the household or community/village level. As long as financing is sufficient to sample an adequate number of study units, study power will not be a concern.
As those of you who follow the blogosphere on development economics may have heard, Chris Blattman and Jeannie Annan had a healthy baby born this past Sunday. The mother and the baby are reported to be happy and healthy. We send Chris, Jeannie, and little Amara our best wishes.
You can read Chris' blog here.
In some joint work with an African government, my colleagues Francisco Campos, Jessica Leino and I were trying to evaluate the impacts of one of their support programs for small businesses. This service was open to anyone who contacted them, but the number of entrepreneurs who knew about the program (and hence who used it) was low. Basically, the way the program worked was that when the entrepreneur came into the office and registered for the program, the implementing agency would assess the needs of the business and then provide the entrepreneur with subsidized access to
There are now a variety of well-known experimental and non-experimental methods that economists use to learn whether a given program works or not. However, our tools for learning why or why not something works are much more limited.