Friday links May 31: Dictators in Vegas, Narcissism of the Small, Why charities shouldn’t evaluate, and more…
Chris Blattman has a round-up of recent studies on the role of capital and training in lifting people out of poverty .
Playing the Dictator game in Las Vegas without people knowing they are in a study .(h/t Marginal Revolution). “To the extent you think that this method answers the question, how much Dictator Game giving is due to people knowing they’re in an experiment, the answer is, “all of it.”
In the Boston Review, Pranab Bardhan reviews and contrasts four recent important books in development : Banerjee and Duflo and Karlan and Appel’s books about lessons from impact evaluation type work; and Acemoglu and Robinson and Besley and Persson’s books on the role of institutions and the state. He is somewhat critical of both: e.g. “As in some types of anthropology, a “narcissism of the small” now pervades parts of the field, which is overwhelmed by researchers focused only on immediate policy usefulness. Undoubtedly that is an important goal, but, correspondingly, much less interest is focused on larger, structural issues or the contribution the subject could make to social thinking in general.”
Caroline Fiennes argues in a blog post for the Stanford Social Innovation Review that most charities shouldn’t evaluate their work ! She argues they should do process monitoring, but that they lack the skills in-house to do impact evaluation, and much of what they do has been evaluated already so they can use the knowledge these ideas work in some settings and concentrate on implementing them well in their setting. Not sure we really have that much evidence for much of what many charities do working, let alone knowing under what conditions and for whom such programs work best though… (h/t @JustinSandefur ).
Papers and presentations from the Transfer Project’s workshop in Zambia highlight new and ongoing impact evaluations of nine cash transfer programs in Sub-Saharan Africa .
In VoxEU Mark Melitz and Stephen Redding talk about what we have learned about measuring the gains from trade ten years into the ‘new new trade theory’
In Slate, Matt Yglesias covers Chris Blattman’s work on giving cash to the poor in Uganda, and the charity GiveDirectly, provocatively headlined “the best and simplest way to fight global poverty ”.
Tim Taylor summarizes several recent meta-analyses which look at the evidence base for the effectiveness of e-learning for college students .