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Weekly links November 6: 5 years of nudging, peer effects, not enough news in New Zealand again, and more…

David McKenzie's picture
  • The Behavioral Insights Team (aka Nudge unit) turns 5 – Psych report interview discusses the achievements and where they plan to go “two things I would point to that, personally, I am most proud of. The first is that I think we can say we have changed the way in which policy is made in Whitehall. People think about drawing on ideas from the behavioral sciences in a way that five years ago almost nobody did. Secondly, people now think about using randomized controlled trials as one of the policy tools that can be used to find out whether or not something works. Again, that was just not considered to be part of a policymaker’s toolbox five years ago. So rather than pointing to the successes of the interventions, I think I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve started to change the mindsets of policymakers in the UK government.”
  • In Science last week, work by Herbst and Mas showing that measurements of peer effects in lab experiments generalize well to what one finds in field experiments – the key thing here is that this is not just generalization in terms of qualitative findings, but also quantitative generalization – the parameter for the change in a worker’s productivity in response to a change in a co-worker’s productivity is remarkably similar between 11 lab experiments and 23 field experiments.
  • The Economist’s Free Exchange column on cash grants and happiness – impacts are a short-lived gain to recipients and short-lived fall in happiness for the untreated in the same villages. I think this is important research, although an alternative take is offered at the CSAE blog who argues that it is unethical (I link to this not because I agree, but because I often hear vague complaints about RCTs being unethical, but it is hard to find concrete examples of specific studies for which this concern is raised).
  • Chris Blattman gives his takeaways from Ezra Klein’s research talk on popularizing research
  • Call for Papers: Labour Economics special issue on field experiments in labor economics.
  • I’m delighted that this old post is relevant again#blacktoblack

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