Published on Development Impact

Weekly links April 5: Banerjee on UBIs in India, is Stata constraining African development? What about beer? Mentoring underrepresented women, and more...

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  • Abhijit Banerjee discusses UBIs in the Caravan magazineon whether a UBI could be feasible in India “If you think of PROGRESA [a conditional cash-transfer scheme in Mexico], then I would say it is kind of the size of the program it would be in India. Even Brazil’s Bolsa Familia [a direct cash-transfer scheme for the poor]. These are conditional cash-transfer schemes—with eligibility conditions such as primary education—but the conditions are not incredibly onerous; they are pretty light. In fact, the Congress is talking about something that is targeted to the poor, a minimum-income guarantee, and this is something that many countries deliver effectively in different forms, including some African countries. So, it is not like we are going to be the first country to adopt an income transfer to the poor on a large scale.”....and on whether targeting could lead to social discontent “Discontent is not a bad thing. Our problem is that we have had too little discontent from the poor. Our discontent is middle-class and lower-middle-class people protesting about job quotas. I would rather have discontent about the design of social services.”
  • In the latest CSWEP newsletter – practical suggestions for mentoring underrepresented minority women in economics -  “There is no single best way to mentor women of color because no singular experience nor set of challenges exists that all women of color face. Thus, the best way is a tailored approach. To accomplish this, the first step involves discussing with the mentee about her unique pathway to her profession and any obstacles she has faced along the way. Then listen..... Potential mentors, please listen to URM women students first, ask questions second, and talk last.”....that said, concrete suggestions offered include exposure to role models of the same ethnic/racial identity (through panels, videos in classrooms, examples in classes); for non-URMs, seeking opportunities to interact and develop friendships and collaborations with URM women represents one way to signal allyship; make sure your syllabus exposes students to a broad range of authors; make clear that grad school is typically funded; and other suggestions.
  • A project from Marina Adshade’s Vancouver School of Economics students has created Wikipedia pages for more female economists – including for my colleague Leora Klapper, and development economist Siwan Anderson among an interesting list.
  • An interesting book review of Heineken in Africa from Aidnography: “one of the most readable, nuanced and critical accounts of ‘multinationals doing business in Africa’... Right from the beginning Van Beemen makes it clear that Heineken’s business in Africa has always been very profitable. This has not been despite the stereotypical assumptions about the continent of one where corruption, conflicts and general underdevelopment creates a difficult environment for business, but because of the opportunities these environments provide”
  • The problems that Africa needs solutions to, most of them, are not amenable to closure by regression. There is simply not the data, and there is simply not the simplicity of causality. You have to find ways of making an intellectual input as economists on deeper problems that cannot be closed just by pressing a button on Stata [a popular statistical software]. Stata is constraining this profession, and it’s constraining its contribution to African development … limiting our ambition and actually making our work timid and sometimes irrelevant.” – from DFID’s deputy chief economist Nick Lea, as reported by Dave Evans, who offers a defense of regressions...and ways to further improve.
  • Is measuring online advertising using observational methods (matching or regression controlling for rich user characteristics) good enough?  ScienceDaily summarizes a new paper in Marketing Science. The paper notes “Using data from 15 US advertising experiments at Facebook comprising 500 million user-experiment observations and 1.6 billion ad impressions, we contrast the experimental results to those obtained from multiple observational models. The observational methods often fail to produce the same effects as the randomized experiments, even after conditioning on extensive demographic and behavioral variables... The bias can be large: in half of our studies, the estimated percentage increase in purchase outcomes is off by a factor of three across all methods.” The paper is also interesting for describing the process Facebook uses to allow businesses to experiment with their ads – and how the control condition is not “no ad”, but the ad that another company would have run had this company not placed this ad (which they know because of the way companies bid for ads in auctions).


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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