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Quantifying the Hawthorne Effect

Jed Friedman's picture
This post is co-authored with Brinda Gokul
 
Many who work on impact evaluation are familiar with the concept of the Hawthorne effect and its potential risk to the accurate inference of causal impact. But if this is a new concept, let’s quickly review the definition and history of the Hawthorne effect:
 

Insuring small firms against big political and economic risks: an experiment in post-revolution Egypt

David McKenzie's picture
The Arab Spring brought about a wave of joy in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa as repressive regimes that had ruled for years were overthrown. But the aftermath brought about considerable turmoil and uncertainty as to what was going to happen in many countries. In Egypt, the immediate aftermath of the January 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak included closing the stock market for 55 days, curfews of up to 18 hours a day, and an interim government under the control of the Armed Forces.

Weekly links October 3: self-control, attitudes vs behavior, IE and poverty, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • Self-control and worker productivity: In the Upshot, Sendhil Mullainathan summarizes his experiment in India that found that piece-rate data entry workers benefited as much from signing a commitment contract that punished them if they didn’t hit a target as they would from a 50 percent pay raise.

Evaluating energy projects – a light-bulb moment?

Arianna Legovini's picture
I recently stumbled upon a TED talk given by Alex Laskey, the founder of Opower, a company using data to affect the behavior of energy consumers. The gist of his talk is that a small behavioral change can have large effects on overall consumption. It reminded me of the debate in impact evaluation (IE) and whether IE asks central or peripheral questions. In the case of energy, very little evidence exists regarding the impact of energy on the environment and the economy.

Do impact evaluations tell us anything about reducing poverty?

Markus Goldstein's picture
I recently was thinking about what impact evaluations in development can tell us about poverty reduction.  On one level this is a ridiculous question.  Most of the impact evaluations out there are designed to look at interventions to improve people's lives and the work is done in developing countries, so it follows that we are making poor people's lives better, right?   That's less obvious.  
 

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