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December 2015

Resource Inequality and Ethnic Conflict in Africa: New Evidence Using Rainfall Data - Guest post by Andrea Guariso

The majority of civil conflicts that took place in Africa since the end of World War II were fought along ethnic lines (Wimmer et al., 2009). Among all the different causes that have been discussed by academics and policy makers, economic inequality has possibly been the most controversial one (Cramer, 2005).

What are Schools Worth? That Depends on the General Equilibrium Effects - Guest post by Gaurav Khanna

Large-scale educational expansions represent substantial investments of public resources and benefit households by increasing education levels, and therefore productivity in the local economy. However, since they impact both individual behavior and labor markets, convincing causal estimates of their overall benefits are hard to generate.

Evading the Family Tax: A Costly Hide-and-Seek Strategy Guest Post by Marie Boltz

This is the twelfth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

Joint work with Karine Marazyan and Paola Villar
“Saving? In Senegal, you don't have the possibility to save! Because the family is here, there is the pressure, there is the electricity bill to pay, the medical prescription of your brother you are asked to pay, and there are your parents to help. It is like that here: as long as you are working, people consider you don't have financial problems.” (Public-primary-school teacher in Guinaw Rail, suburb of Dakar, Senegal, Boltz and Villar 2013)

Weekly links December 18: rejecting rejections, measuring success in economics, underreporting in polisci, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • In the BMJ Christmas edition, a nice form letter for how you can reject journal rejections: “As you are probably aware we receive many rejections each year and are simply not able to accept them all. In fact, with increasing pressure on citation rates and fiercely competitive funding structures we typically accept fewer than 30% of the rejections we receive… We do wish you and your editorial team every success with your rejections in the future and hope they find safe harbour elsewhere. To this end, may we suggest you send one to [insert name of rival research group] for consideration. They accept rejections from some very influential journals.”
  • From the political science replication blog: researchers looked at NSF proposals under the TESS program, and compares the pre-analysis plans and questionnaires to what was actually published, finding 80% of papers fail to report all experimental conditions and outcomes

The trade-off of spousal secrets in family planning: Guest post by Aine McCarthy

This is the eleventh in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

When men desire nearly three times as many additional children as their wives and possess most of the decision-making power in the household, the stark difference in fertility preferences leads to excess fertility and welfare losses for wives.

Yelp, I’m pregnant! Crowdsourced ratings improve artificial insemination services in Pakistan: Guest Post by Arman Rezaee

This is the tenth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

What do crowdsourcing, livestock artificial insemination, and mobile technology have to do with each other? Would you be surprised if I told you that the answer might be a widely scalable system to improve service delivery for the poor?

Do school grants buy student learning? No.

David Evans's picture
A few weeks ago, I participated in a debate on whether school grants buy student learning. I agreed to argue a firm no – as in, “No, school grants do NOT buy student learning” – because I believe the evidence to date strongly supports that. Here I’ll review that evidence.
Let me be clear about what I’m not saying.

Inside the black box of participatory democracy: leadership and inclusion in self-help groups: Guest Post by Miri Stryjan

This is the ninth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

In developing countries a large fraction of public and financial services are provided by NGOs and mediated by community groups. These organizations are typically external rather than native to the communities where they operate and it is believed that increasing local ownership can improve legitimacy and sustainability of development programs. For this reason development organizations are increasingly turning to participatory decision-making practices. A notable example is the World Bank’s focus on ”Community Driven Development”-projects in the last decade (See Mansuri and Rao (2013) for a review). Previous studies that evaluate Community Driven Development projects point to several advantages of direct local participation compared to central decision making by an NGO or by representatives (see e.g. Olken (2010), Beath et al. (2012), Madajewicz et al. (2014)). Yet, so far we know very little about the relative benefits of different types of direct participation. For example: can we expect a secret ballot vote to be comparable to an open discussion in a village meeting?

Who’s at Risk? Biophysical and Market Forces Shape Crop Nutrient Content: Guest Post by Leah Bevis

This is the eighth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Worldwide, over 800 million people are lacking energy: they are hungry. Yet far more, over 2 billion people, suffer from “hidden hunger,” micronutrient deficiencies that impair cognition, impede skeletal growth, put both mothers and infants at risk of death, and reduce life-long productivity for those who survive (Kennedy, Nantel and Shetty 2003; Horton, Alderman and Rivera 2009).

However, despite the prevalence and far-reaching ramifications of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, precise deficiency rates are difficult to estimate, and individuals rarely know their own micronutrient status. Nutritionists and policy-makers often gauge a person or populations’ micronutrient status by estimating micronutrient intake, which is constructed according to food consumption/supply data and a Food Composition Table (FCT) that gives a fixed nutrient content value for all foods (e.g., here or here). But food nutrient content is not fixed; it is a conditional distribution that shifts over space and time. Therefore, intake estimates that rely on FCTs will fail to capture heterogeneity in micronutrient intake, tend to under-estimate deficiency prevalence, and fail to detect key vulnerable populations dependent on staples with lower-than-average micronutrient content.

Towards policy irrelevance? Thoughts on the experimental arms race and Chris Blattman’s predictions

David McKenzie's picture

Chris Blattman posted an excellent (and surprisingly viral) post yesterday with the title “why I worry experimental social science is headed in the wrong direction”. I wanted to share my thoughts on his predictions.
He writes:
Take experiments. Every year the technical bar gets raised. Some days my field feels like an arms race to make each experiment more thorough and technically impressive, with more and more attention to formal theories, structural models, pre-analysis plans, and (most recently) multiple hypothesis testing. The list goes on. In part we push because want to do better work. Plus, how else to get published in the best places and earn the respect of your peers?
It seems to me that all of this is pushing social scientists to produce better quality experiments and more accurate answers. But it’s also raising the size and cost and time of any one experiment.

Why did the farmer cross the road? To bridge the productivity divide: Guest Post by Sam Asher

This is the sixth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
 The productivity of workers in agriculture is generally much lower than in other sectors of the economy (Gollin, Lagakos and Waugh, 2014). This is particularly true in low-income countries, yet these countries generally have the highest shares of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture (McMillan et al, 2014). So why don’t workers switch jobs into higher productivity (and better paid) occupations? Development economists as far back as Lewis (1954) and Sen (1966) have studied the labor market imperfections that may keep workers in low productivity agriculture despite higher wages elsewhere.

Socializing with friends at work: A look into the black box of non-cognitive skills: Guest post by Sangyoon Park

This is the fifth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
Do people perform better when working with friends or do their friends distract them from doing their job well? Does the effect depend on their personality traits? I investigate these questions in the context of a seafood-processing plant in Vietnam in which several workers perform the identical task – cleaning and filleting fish -- at 4-person tables in a processing room. I collaborated with the management to design and implement a field experiment in which employees were randomly assigned to positions within the room each day. I use random variation in a worker’s proximity to friends to estimate the effect of working with friends on job performance. Before the experiment, I administered a baseline survey to collect information on employees’ friendship ties and personality characteristics. I find that employees are less productive when working with friends but only when friends are close enough to socialize with each other. I also find that personality traits matter and explain a significant portion of individual differences in socializing behaviors at work. Conversely, socializing with friends explains a large portion of why workers with certain personality traits – notably, conscientiousness – are more productive workers.

Can emigration lead to political change in poor countries? It did in 19th century Sweden: Guest Post by Mounir Karadja

This is the fourth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.

Institutions are widely believed to be important drivers of development. Recently, economists have begun using detailed micro data to study how historical institutions can shape development outcomes decades or even centuries down the line. But for anyone interested in development, a key question is what causes institutions to change over time. Here, the evidence is more scant. In my job market paper, my co-author Erik Prawitz and I ask if large-scale emigration can be a mechanism leading to political change in origin countries.