- Veracities on David Card and Stefano DellaVigna’s work in progress on what gets in top economic journals. They have data on submissions to top journals and assess how editor and referee assessments relate to subsequent citations.
- On Let’s Talk Development, Damien de Walque on giving income transfers to mothers vs fathers, and how a Belgian painting may have it all wrong.
- Andrew Gelman on some issues with reproducibility in economics and the reluctance of journals to consider comments. I like this: “I do think there’s an unfortunate “incumbency advantage” by which published papers with “p less than .05” are taken as true unless a large effort is amassed to take them down. Criticisms are often held to a much higher standard than held for the reviewing of the original paper and, as noted above, many journals don’t publish letters at all…In journals, it’s all about the wedding, never about the marriage”
- J-PAL interview with Oriana Bandiera – watch out, it includes another story about Zambia that has crocodiles and lions on the loose.
- The Washington Post covers the recent experimental evaluation by Seema Jayachandran and co-authors of Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) to reduce deforestation in Uganda. “owners of forested land in 60 villages in the Hoima and Kibaale districts of western Uganda were offered $ 28 per year (70,000 Ugandan shillings) over two years for every hectare of forest that they did not harvest or chop down for other economic reasons. By comparison, in 61 other villages, nothing was offered — but rates of deforestation were monitored by satellite in all villages.The result was that while forest cover decreased by between 7 and 10 percent in the “control” villages, it only dropped between 2 to 5 percent in the designated “treatment” villages, suggesting that the incentive payments were preventing a significant number of landowners from selling large trees for timber or charcoal, or chopping down forest to grow more crops.”
- Maitreesh Ghatak in the Indian Express on how much a basic income guarantee would cost in India, and whether it could be paid for. His estimate is it would cost 11% of GDP, whereas NREGA only costs 0.3%. Includes the stunning fact that “only 1 per cent of Indians actually pay income tax, while a mere 2.3 per cent file tax returns”.
- More on UBI: the Chicago Booth IGM economic experts panel finds US economists are overwhelmingly against a UBI in the USA
- From the IDB development that works blog, the Mexican government’s Self-Reported Expanded Well-Being Study (expanded BIARE) survey of 44,000 people includes measures of measures that include personal autonomy, feelings of achievement, security, affection, family, friends, or feelings about having a purpose in life.
- The Washington Post wonkblog summarizes the forthcoming JEP paper by Chris Blattman, Ted Miguel and co-authors on how war seems to foster cooperation in affected communities afterwards.
- In Slate, Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan on how science undervalues novelty, and why researchers need to take more risks.
- A new practical guide to mobile phone panel surveys in developing countries from a World Bank team.
- Call for papers: Development conference to be held at Fordham University on September 16.
- Following on my book review of Grit, Lee Crawfurd uses surveys from 10 developing countries to examine the correlations between grit and income, years of education, and learning outcomes - and finds grit has a statistically significant correlation with schooling in each country (but explains very little of its variation), and has no significant correlations with either income earned or learning achieved.
- A summary of the evidence on the effects of naturalization/becoming a citizen on labor market outcomes via IZA World of Labor
- Tim Harford on experiments on incentivizing workers, including new work by John List and co-authors on incentivizing pilots “If you want people to do a good job, tell them what success looks like to you — and that you’ve noticed when they’ve achieved it.”
- The p-hacker app by Felix Schönbrodt – train your expert p-hacking skills.
- How development can go horribly wrong on a small island – Australia’s Earshot podcast on the Secret History of Nauru (look for episode 6/12/2016) – including phosphate mining, offshore banking, and even an investment in one of the worst WestEnd musicals
- Bruce Wydick on how development economists need to do more diagnosis before trying to measure impact
- Papers and keynote presentations from the ABCDE conference this week are now up online
- NEUDC will take place at MIT Sloan Nov 5-6, with submissions due August 15. So get busy working on those papers this summer.
- Chris Blattman summarizes a new working paper that shows how legalizing the ivory trade increased ivory smuggling.
- From VoxEU, how to evaluate industrial cluster policies, based on the IADB’s experience.
- From the IADB’s Development that Works blog, a nice description and photos of a simulated patient study that aimed to see whether indigenous women in Peru receive different advice from family planning clinics than mestizo women? No – but the quality of care was bad for both types.
- Econthatmatters does a round-up of the development-related research at the recent association of environmental and resource economists’ conference
- The Economic History Society has started a blog called “The Long Run”, although they only have a post up saying they are starting the blog at the moment.
Last week the “State of Economics, State of the World” conference was held at the World Bank. I had the pleasure of discussing (along with Martin Ravallion) Esther Duflo’s talk on “The Influence of Randomized Controlled Trials on Development Economics Research and on Development Policy”. The website should have links to the papers and video stream replay up (if not already, then soon).
The first part of Esther’s talk traced out the growth in RCTs in development economics. She pointed out that in 2000 the top-5 journals published 21 articles in development, of which 0 were RCTs, while in 2015 there were 32, of which 10 were RCTs – so pretty much all the growth in development papers in top journals comes from RCTs. She also showed that the more recently BREAD members had received their PhD, the more likely they were to have done at least one RCT.
In my discussion I expanded on these facts to put them in context, and argue against what I see as a couple of strawman arguments: 1) that top journals only publish RCTs, and that RCTs have taken over development research; and 2) that young researchers have a “randomize or bust” attitude and refuse to do anything but RCTs. I thought I’d summarize what I said on both here.