Regression Discontinuity designs have become a popular addition to the impact evaluation toolkit, and offer a visually appealing way of demonstrating the impact of a program around a cutoff. An extension of this approach which is growing in usage is the regression kink design(RKD). I’ve never estimated one of these, and am not an expert, but thought it might be useful to try to provide an introduction to this approach along with some links that people can then follow-up on if they want to implement it.
- The latest Journal of Economic Perspectives has two papers on the role of the World Bank: Clemens and Kremer on its role in facilitating international agreements to reduce poverty; and Ravallion on the role as a knowledge bank. Clemens and Kremer have a nice list of policy areas where developing countries have dramatically changed policies following World Bank involvement and conclude that “While it is impossible to quantify the Bank’s policy influence in a precise way, our judgment is that Bank donors are getting a tremendous amount of policy influence with their limited funding. This influence comes both through deals that link Bank finance to policy reform and through the Bank’s soft power. For this reason, allocating more resources to the Bank would be desirable.”
- The JEP also has a nice summary by Larry Katz of Roland Fryer’s work.
- The wonkblog on how much evidence there is (or is not) behind nutrition guidelines, and how evidence interacts with public policy demands – and of the difficulties of using RCTs in this context but also the dangers of veering towards nutritional nihilism
- Finally, if you wonder why your emails don’t get replied to, here is PhD comics
This post is jointly authored by David Evans and Bruce Wydick.
A daunting question faced by many non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in poverty work is—after all the fundraising, logistical work, direct work with the poor, and accounting is all done—one naturally wonders: Is my NGO having a positive impact? Indeed, as a recent Guardian article highlighted, “If the [NGO] sector wants to properly serve local populations, it needs to improve how it collects evidence.” Donors are also increasingly demanding evidence of impact from NGOs, no longer just the large funders, but the small individual donors as well.
There has obviously been a large increase in the number of rigorous impact evaluations taking place of World Bank projects over the past decade, including increasing use of randomized experiments. But one comment/complaint of a number of operational staff and government policymakers is still that “randomized experiments take too much time”. In order to avoid repeating myself so often in responding to this, I thought I’d provide some responses on this point here.
- A quora discussion with Susan Athey has the most thorough explanation I’ve seen of why so many tech companies are hiring economists, and the types of work they are doing in these companies.
- The IGC blog has a summary of recent work looking at the external validity of the Angrist and Evans instrument for family size (if your first two kids are the same gender, you are more likely to have a third)
- Cyrus Samii with a useful reminder on how inverse covariance weighting vs factor analysis works in aggregating several variables.
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 AEA continuing education website now has webcasts up from Dean Karlan and John List’s mini-course on field experiments
- The Economist Free Exchange blog covers a couple of papers on how reliable results in economics are, including Marcel Fafchamps new paper suggesting splitting the sample in two
There seems to be much enthusiasm today for efforts to improve access to information about poor people’s rights and entitlements. In a much debated recent example, Facebook’s “Free Basics” platform provides free access to a selected slice of the internet (including, of course, Facebook). In arguing for Free Basics, Mark Zuckerberg says that “everyone … deserves access to the tools and information that can help them to achieve all those other public services, and all their fundamental social and economic rights.” I think we would all agree; less obvious is whether Free Basics will help do that. Critics argue that it is a “walled garden” approach—indeed, a threat to net neutrality. There have been proposals for other options using subsidized internet data packs, as in the proposal for India made recently by Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah.
- Chris Blattman picks up on the underappreciated benefit of researchers getting involved in evaluations – that they actually get out there in the world and see how policy is implemented
- Justin Wolfers does a nice summary of the work showing how female economists don’t get credit for co-authored work done with men
- From Moody’s Analytics, six examples of where careful empirical work in economics has changed someone’s mind
- From the Africa Can blog, Dominique van de Walle has an interesting discussion on widowhood in Africa, including age patterns, and socioeconomic status.
- Funding: IPA SME initiative call for proposals, due Feb 15.