Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 1: Paying survey participants ethically, barriers to technology adoption, structure doesn’t exist says Nobel winner, and more…

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·       On the 3ie blog, Douglas MacKay has a post on the ethics of payments to research participants. “Researchers may wonder if they should pay participants for their time, how much they should offer, and whether it should take the form of cash or in-kind provision. They may worry that a failure to pay participants risks exploitation, but also that the promise of payment may unduly influence or even coerce people to participate, particularly when prospective participants are poor.”  He discusses these issues, and concludes ”To sum up, research sponsors should set aside money to reimburse participants for their out-of-pocket expenses and to compensate them for their time when such payments are unlikely to bias the study’s results. Doing so is often necessary to ensure that participants are not exploited. It is also permissible to incentivize participation to meet recruitment and retention goals. While researchers may worry that payments may coerce or unduly induce people to participate, thus undermining their consent, the former concern is misplaced while the latter is not supported by the available evidence.”

·       Mushfiq Mobarak and Neela Saldanha have a comment in Nature Human Behavior on effective strategies for technology adoption by people in poverty. “When investigating the low adoption of a product with positive net benefits, the two most frequently cited explanations by both researchers and practitioners are (1) a lack of money to invest in the new product and (2) a lack of information or awareness among users about the problem and possible solutions. Beyond these two frequently considered issues, there are other barriers that people living in poverty face in the context of behavioural change, such as risk aversion and the expected norms of behaviour set by others around them.”

·       Economics also lacks socioeconomic diversity - Robert Schultz and Anna Stanbury have a working paper using data from the survey of earned doctorates to show that “economics PhD recipients are substantially more likely to have highly educated parents, and less likely to have parents without a college degree, than PhD recipients in other disciplines. This is true both for US-born and non-US-born PhD recipients, but the gap between economics and other disciplines is starker for those born in the United States. The gap in socioeconomic diversity between economics and other PhD disciplines has increased over the last two decades.”

·       A World Bank feature story on S Anukriti, who joined the World Bank’s research department in 2020, with discussion on what has surprised her in her work on the mechanisms behind gender inequalities.

·       Scott Cunningham interviews Josh Angrist about his early life, and then about how his work on IV and local average treatment effects came about. His advice for those considering grad school “tell me the papers you wish you had written” – and then do you see yourself being excited to have a life doing research like that; his views on thinking about identifying treatment effects – “where does the variation come from” rather than”let’s model the outcome process”, and “there is no such thing as structure”. He also talks about losing a lot of sleep over the many instruments weak IV work when it came out – but how in retrospect, it is ultimately a compliment. He talks about why it was useful to set up a lab environment to do work with large school administrative datasets.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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