Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 26: measurement, conscientiousness, judge leniency IV, running regressions, and more…

This page in:
Young boxers at the White Collars Boxing Match 2019, taken by Mariajose Silva Vargas

·       The JDE has a special issue on measurement. This editorial summarizes the different papers and their findings. One of the other interesting things to note is how special issues are now handled with Elsevier’s quick publishing system – the special issue encompasses papers published in multiple years, so that the first papers don’t have to wait around for the last papers in the issue before coming out.

·       On Let’s Talk Development, Martina Kirchberger and co-authors summarize the results of an experiment in Senegal that provided conscientiousness training to workers employed in the construction of a new express train as security guards, masons, and laborers. After 9 months workers in the treatment group were 10 p.p. more likely to have kept their job in the construction company, and had higher earnings than the control group.

·       Eric Chyn, Brigham Frandsen and Emily Leslie have a new NBER working paper providing a practitioner’s guide to examiner and judge designs, which is in preparation for the JEL. I have a previous blog post discussing these “judge leniency IV” designs” as an intro. “it has been applied in at least 71 studies across a range of settings that feature various types of decision-makers …Recent examples include studies of the effects of pre-trial detention, consumer bankruptcy, foster care, disability benefits, patents, medical diagnoses, and health treatments.” They discuss the assumptions needed, what average effect is getting estimated, the use of JIVE in estimation when there are many judges, when to cluster, and what types of specification tests to use to probe the empirical plausibility of the assumptions. In particular, they discuss weakening the pairwise monotonicity assumption (where examiners agree on the relative rankings of all subjects) to an average monotonicity assumption, and what can be identified in that case. Finally, they walk through in detail an empirical example, with code and data provided.

·       Jishnu Das on whether development economics has lost its moral compass – “But we did fight out of a fundamental desire for social justice rather than a narrow consideration of private benefits or societal efficiency….most people in the broader development community were thinking equally deeply about inequality, politics, the role of the state and the provision of public services for the poor…But instead of a clamoring of voices protesting the injustice, we our field of development economics has gone silent. Our conferences are silent. We do not talk to each other about how to respond or how our field needs to evolve in light of these difficult challenges. We do not talk about how to support each other at this difficult time. Perhaps most importantly, given who we are and what we do, our work has gone silent. Our raison d’être has evolved from improving the lives of the poor and holding the state accountable where necessary, to working closely with the state, designing studies that uncover novel mechanisms using particularly clever empirical strategies….Somewhere along the way to becoming popular, development economics lost its soul. Somewhere along the way in its quest for acceptance, development economics replaced its deep moral underpinnings, which had guided our actions despite a lack of certitude, with a set of profit-and-loss statements that now has us tiptoeing in fear instead of proceeding with moral courage. The simple question of “Is this the right thing to do?” has now been replaced by the hundreds of questions that compromised speech always raises.”

·       Will digitalizing transactions improve tax compliance? On VoxEU, Anne Brockmeyer and Magaly Sáenz Somarriba use data from Uruguay to show that a VAT-rebate program that got consumers to use credit and debit cards more did not get firms that were not already accepting cards to adopt point-of-sale terminals. Instead they just used them more at firms that were already accepting cards. There was then no increase in VAT tax compliance among firms, since even those already accepting cards appear to have had most of their transactions in cash, so plenty of room to increase digital sales without increasing reported sales.

·       In the FT, Soumaya Keynes discusses the economics of running. She summarizes a working paper which looks at how labor market conditions are related to participation in weekly 5km Parkruns – which finds “Running times improve during recessions for men and women aged 50 and above but worsen for men aged 20-49 and women aged 20-29”.  Using panel data, they regress times on person, location, and date fixed effects, age group, and then employment conditions in the region. So as I get older, I can blame slower times on a good economy in addition to all the other reasons!

·       The Freakonomics podcast covers examples of the law of unintended consequences, giving three examples: i) Josh Angrist on how the Americans with Disabilities Act may have actually reduced employment opportunities at first for disabled workers; ii) Zoe Cullen on how pay transparency can have the unintended consequence of lowering average wages; and iii) recent work by Marina Gertsberg on how #MeToo reduced collaborations between junior female academics and their male colleagues.

·       Noah Smith on how inequality has been falling in Latin America, and potential explanations for this: increasing education, economic growth, and progressive transfers are the main factors he comes down in favor of.

·       ETRM interview with Chris Udry on what big areas in development he thinks are underresearched, and when and how grad students should do fieldwork.

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000