Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 22: summer internships for the established researcher, Indian poverty measures, policy advice with and without evidence, savings nudges and more…

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·       A really nice interview by Scott Cunningham of Guido Imbens. Among the interesting takeaways were 1) (the admittedly modest) Guido talking about the role of mentors and luck at key moments in his career in terms of getting into econometrics in the first place and into a PhD program; 2) Guido talking about how much harder it is to stay open to new ideas as you progress in your career as it is early on, and how much he has learned from working with a wide variety of co-authors – and the importance of mutual respect and similar styles when working with smart people whose views are different from yours; and 3) the fact that he did a summer internship as a tenured professor – spending a summer at Facebook and learning the types of problems they were facing and interested in, which helped in getting him working on machine learning and network experimental issues – this idea of a summer internship and embedding yourself in an organization later in your career sounds like it would be really good for many more people.

·       On the CGD blog, Justin Sandefur summarizes two recent approaches to attempting to measure what has happened to poverty in India that reach very different conclusions from one another. “From a technical perspective, this debate is interesting because the data are so bad. If the data were good, there'd be no need for fancy imputations.”

·       On the All about Finance blog, Paolina Medina and Michaela Pagel summarize their work on testing savings nudges with a Mexican bank. “The data originated from a bank in Mexico, Banorte, which ran a randomized experiment with 3,054,438 customers. Of these, 2,679,545 customers were treated with weekly or bi-weekly ATM and SMS messages encouraging them to save for 7 weeks during fall 2019, while the remaining 374,893 customers received no messages. We pay particular attention to the borrowing response of individuals with the largest predicted response to the nudge. For them, potential unintended consequences of saving nudges are all the more likely. To identify them, we predict treatment effects at the individual level with a causal forest….In essence, the forest identifies two groups of individuals: a large first group with a zero treatment effect (quartiles 1 to 3 of the predicted treatment effects), and a smaller second group with positive and significant treatment effects (the top quartile of the predicted treatment effects)…. we find that savings due to nudges are not financed with new debt, but with reductions in consumption”

·       Asjad Naqvi has released a package bimap that provides the ability to draw bi-variate maps in Stata.

·       On the Hidden Curriculum podcast, Marc Bellemare discusses his new book on Doing Economics, and his views on how you should choose service activities, why you should frontload effort, and more…

·       On VoxDev, Giulia Mascagni, Andualem Mengistu and Firew Woldeyes look at the impact of adopting sales registration machines in Ethiopia on VAT tax collection, using a DiD approach around the rollout of the machines. “Our estimates suggest an increase in reported sales of over 100% for VAT and 30% for profit taxes. However, firms responded by increasing their reported costs to minimise the increase in their tax liability. This adjustment in reported costs was proportionally more than the increase in sales: at least 190 % for VAT input and 88% for expense deductions claimed in the profit tax declaration. This over-adjustment of expenses partly offset the positive revenue effect of the SRM rollout. Despite this behavioural adjustment, the net impact on tax revenue is still positive and large, though less than proportional compared to the increase in reported sales. We found that tax revenue increased by at least 48% for VAT and 12% for profit tax as a result of firms’ SRM adoption.”.

·       Reddit AMA with Chris Blattman. Among the questions he responds to are “As someone (possible) giving advice to policy makers, how do you balance giving evidence based advice versus advocating for broader reforms which may or may not have been tried but have higher upside?” “What aspects of conflict do you think are understudied or ignored in the economics research?”, and “Do you like ducks?”.

·       A stocktaking of different sources of international migration data by Thomas Buettner.

·       Nathan Canen and Julio Solís summarize takeaways from a recent conference at the Yale Economic Growth Center on political distortions, economic development, and policy experimentation.

·       For your advance planning: NEUDC 2022 will be held at Yale, November 5-6, with submissions open June 1-August 15.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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