Published on Development Impact

Weekly links December 19: Savings, basic incomes, skill gaps & M&Ms, and more…

This page in:
  • On the FAI blog Tim Ogden discusses what we mean by savings when we talk about it as an outcome.
  • A snapshot of the job market this year from 538 – what the next generation of economists is working on? Development is pretty popular, corporate finance and international economics not so much.
  • Testing basic incomes: the Guardian reports on an experiment in India, where Unicef funded an unconditional basic income scheme. A “modified randomized control trial” (whatever that is) assigned everyone in 8 treatment villages to receive a monthly income for 18 months, with 12 control villages: “the basic incomes resulted in more economic activity and work. Conventional labour statistics would have picked that up inadequately. There was a big increase in secondary economic activities, as well as a shift from casual wage labour to own-account farming and small-scale business” Haven’t come across an academic paper with the results or more details.
  • A new (long) NBER working paper by Heckman and others reviews the recent literature on measuring and boosting cognitive and noncognitive skills. Some things I found of interest:
    • Just how important incentivizing answers can be: “Test scores for young children can be improved by one standard deviation by offering candy for correct answers.” “The black-white gap in IQ can be completely eliminated by giving M&M candies for correct answers”
    • Measuring non-cognitive skills through surveys vs measured behaviors: “literature suggests that there are objective measurements of non-cognitive skills that are not plagued by reference bias.” – but the examples given like school absences, participation in extra-curriculars, etc. don’t strike me as overly compelling.
    • “Of the Big Five, Conscientiousness (the tendency to be organized, responsible, and hardworking) is the most widely predictive across a variety of outcomes…Conscientiousness predicts years of schooling with the same strength as measures of intelligence”.
    • The length of time needed to measure effects: “The three-year follow-up is too short to determine whether the program has lasting effects” and “Given the concern that apprenticeships train workers too narrowly and make apprentices less adaptable to a changing labor market, in evaluating apprenticeship programs it is important to follow those completing apprenticeships over long time horizons.”
  • Call for papers: 8th International Conference on Migration and Development – to be held at the World Bank this year, June 8-9.
  • Research funding: PEDL has just launched a new call for major grants on private sector development in low-income countries.
Development Impact will be on break for the next two weeks. Happy holidays to all our readers, and see you next year.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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