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Weekly links February 17: Don’t give up on your research ideas but do give up on unwarranted policy recommendations

David Evans's picture
  • Chris Blattman provides an incentive to delay giving up on that great research idea you’ve been peddling for years in this story from the EconTalk podcast: For years, he pitched random African factory owners the idea of an RCT of factory employment. “They’d usually look at me kind of funny. They wouldn’t leap at the possibility. I was just this person they met on a plane.” One day it worked, and six weeks later he was randomizing applicants.

Weekly Links: Capabilities and Skills, More on RDD, Elite capture, Real-time price tracking in South Sudan, and more...

Berk Ozler's picture
  • Heckman turned one of his lectures from last year into an NBER WP titled "Capabilities and Skills." Looks really interesting - here's a quote from the abstract: "We address measurement problems common to both the economics of human development and the capability approach. The economics of human development analyzes the dynamics of preference formation, but is silent about which preferences should be used to evaluate alternative policies. This is both a strength and a limitation of the approach."

  • Advances in Econometrics has a special issue on Regression Discontinuity Design, including many papers by prominent statisticians and econometricians in the field and edited by Cattaneo and Escanciano.

  • Do poor people want more redistributive programs and less public goods? Latest issue of the Journal of the European Economic Association has a paper by Bursztyn that challenges elite capture as the explanation for low levels of investment in public education. Here is the abstract: "A large literature has emphasized elite capture of democratic institutions as the explanation for the low levels of spending on public education in many low-income democracies. This paper provides an alternative to that longstanding hypothesis. Motivated by new cross-country facts and evidence from Brazilian municipalities, we hypothesize that many democratic developing countries might invest less in public education spending because poor decisive voters prefer the government to allocate resources elsewhere. One possible explanation is that low-income voters could instead favor redistributive programs that increase their incomes in the short run, such as cash transfers. To test for this possibility, we design and implement an experimental survey and an incentivized choice experiment in Brazil. The findings from both interventions support our hypothesis."

  • My brilliant former research assistant Utz Pape has a blog post titled: "What did we learn from real-time tracking of market prices in South Sudan?" Read it if you're into innovative use of technology in development.

  • Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL), a joint research initiative of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and the Department For International Development (DFID), is offering a competitive research grants scheme for projects related to the behaviour of firms in Low-Income Countries (LICs) that aim to better understand what determines the strength of market forces driving efficiency in these countries. Round 21 of their new Exploratory Research Grants is now open:

Weekly links May 13: Bad science reporting, bad measurement, bad social science ethics, and good books

David Evans's picture
  • This week in macro measurement: “‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’ said Otto von Bismarck. Turns out you can probably add GDP to that list.” Duncan Green gives a useful summary of The Economist’s extensive critique of GDP, how it is becoming decreasingly useful over time, and how it could be better.