Published on Development Impact

Weekly links December 15: non-frivolous frivolous expenses, Indian internal borders, aspirations, and much more…

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  • Bruce Wydick offers his summary of what we are learning about goals, aspirations, and development:” Traditionally development economics has focused on relieving “external constraints” for people in poverty. In layman’s terms essentially what this means is we try to help poor people by providing them stuff…What if some of the most important aspects of poverty relate to internal constraints like feeling worthless, hopeless, and without aspirations for the future?... unless there are pre-existing aspirations for an intervention (such as microfinance or myriad programs related to education and other types of empowerment), the relief of an external constraint in a particular area is likely to meet with poor results.  But if aspirations (for, say, entrepreneurialism or education) are pre-existent, or perhaps if they can be effectively developed as a complement to a tangible intervention, then the intervention is much more likely to realize significant and positive impacts.”… “some of the most effective interventions that help alleviate internal constraints may be very inexpensive, such as goalsetting. However, the most effective interventions are more expensive because they involve the long-term nurture of individuals”
  • In the New York Times, in a failure to heal, Siddhartha Mukherjee discusses what happens when a clinical trial fails and the seduction of post-hoc heterogeneity analysis: “Why not try to find the people for whom the drug did work?... This kind of search-and-rescue mission is called “post hoc” analysis. It’s exhilarating — and dangerous. On one hand, it promises the possibility of resuscitating the medicine: Find the right group of responsive patients within the trial group — men above 60, say, or postmenopausal women — and you can, perhaps, pull the drug out of the rubble of the failed study. But it’s also a treacherous seduction. The reasoning is fatally circular — a just-so story. You go hunting for groups of patients that happened to respond — and then you turn around and claim that the drug “worked” on, um, those very patients that you found.” …with a great example to a paper published in the Lancet, where the editors requested this post-hoc analysis, so the author insisted in splitting the sample also by signs of the Zodaic and then noting the drug worked for Capricorns.
  • Call for papers: The next Annual Bank Conference on Africa (ABCA) will be held at Stanford and focus on firms in sub-Saharan Africa. Papers due Feb 23.
  • Job opening: IPA is looking for a senior research associate to work on a project on improving policing in Mexico.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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