Published on Development Impact

Holiday links December 20: A stocking stuffed full of links for your holiday reading

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Development Impact is now on break for the holidays, and will resume in the new year. Enjoy this Brobdingnagian set of links to keep you entertained and satiated over the holidays:

·       Wired summarizes an ambitious new study to be published in the Psychological Bulletin, which looks at the idea of research design degrees of freedom in testing hypotheses. “The project started with five hypotheses that had already been tested experimentally but on which results had not yet been published. Aside from the hypothesis about implicit associations described above, these concerned things like how people respond to aggressive negotiating tactics or what factors could make them more willing to accept the use of performance-enhancing drugs among athletes. Uhlmann and his colleagues presented the same research questions to more than a dozen research teams without telling them anything about the original study or what it had found. The teams then independently created their own experiments to test the hypotheses under some common parameters. The studies would have to be carried out online, with participants in each drawn at random from a common pool….The published study materials show how much variation there was across research designs…When the study was over, seven groups had found evidence in favor of the hypothesis, while six had found evidence against it. Taken all together, these data would not support the idea that people recognize and report their own implicit associations. But if you’d seen results from only one group’s design, it would have been easy to come to a different conclusion”

·       In Scientific American, Scott Barry Kaufman summarizes the research on gender differences in personality: these differences are small on average when considering single measures at the big-5 level (e.g. extroversion), but i) are larger when considering more narrow measures that form part of these broad measures (e.g. assertiveness, sociability and friendliness); and ii) are correlated across traits, so that multivariate analysis can tell gender pretty well just from personality  -“data suggests that the probability that a randomly picked individual will be correctly classified as male or female based on knowledge of their global personality profile is 85%”.

·       Dylan Matthews at Vox summarizes the latest Give Directly evaluation – which looks at general equilibrium effects of its grants.

·       In Science, Fabregas, Kremer and Schilbach review the potential of digital technology for offering agricultural advice.

·       Penny Goldberg offers her picks for holiday reading of research published this year she found most interesting.

·       The CSWEP newsletter has interviews with Rohini Pande and Melissa Dell, along with advice offered for junior and senior scholars. Melissa talks about what new skills economic historians may want to invest in to be able to utilize mountains of documents from the past.

·       The Review of Economics and Statistics is (re-)instituting consideration of short papers (<6000 words, no more than 5 tables/figures, and, crucially, also a limit on the appendix size). And another journal adds a data editor- The Economic Journal has added Joan Llull as theirs.

·       How should funders trade off improvements in different domains? Givewell and IDInsight blog about asking people living in poverty how they value different outcomes.

·       In Nature news, a growing number of grant agencies are assigning funding randomly.

·       From CSAE coder’s corner: how to estimate random forests in Stata.

·       IDInsight’s blog discusses the logistics of implementing a public lottery to decide the sequencing of cash transfers for 10,000 refugees – including key details on using a barrel of ping pong balls (make sure the container is not transparent, give it a good shake each time, use replacement). [By the way, a plea for organizations using Medium – it is annoying that it makes you sign in if you have read more than 4 stories in a month – think about hosting blogs on your own sites instead].

·       The Nobel Prize lectures in Economics by Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer.

·       Banerjee and Duflo in Foreign Affairs discuss why India and China’s growth is likely to (continue to) fall, what we know about fostering growth, and the benefits of focusing on the poor. And video of their book launch of Good Economics for Hard Times at the World Bank. Tyler Cowen interviews Esther here about her work on ultra-poor programs, her approach to managing field projects, and issues of safety in doing fieldwork as a woman in India, along with an eclectic array of other topics.

·       Paul Niehaus’ advice for graduate students on how to make the transition to doing research

·       I’m a bit late to seeing this, but American Factory on Netflix is compelling viewing for anyone interested in management, globalization, cultural clashes, the labor movement, or, 54 minutes in, an amazing holiday party song extolling the virtues of lean manufacturing.

·       The Upshot looks at whether Nike’s Vaporflies really make you run faster – using three different non-experimental methods: i) change in time regressed on shoe and controls for observables (gender, weather, training, age, etc.); ii) difference-in-differences, comparing changes in times for runners who switched to vaporflies to similar runners who did not; and iii) event study/runner fixed effects – looking at change in time for the same runner when they switch shoes. An interesting example of how to explain and present non-experimental analysis to a general audience.

·       Call for papers:

o   PACDEV 2020 will be at UC Berkeley on March 14. Submissions due Jan 8.

o   The Jobs and Development conference will be held in Warsaw on May 21-22, submissions due Jan 20.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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