Published on Development Impact

Weekly links December 3: Chef Banerjee, modest impacts of digital markets for agriculture, who benefited from remote seminars, and more…

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·       The IGC and BREAD are organizing a virtual PhD course for the spring, covering topics in education; credit, insurance and risk; and migration. The course is open and free of charge to all interested PhD students and economics faculty worldwide, but requires registering by January 20, 2022.  I am excited to be giving one of the migration lectures, and there is a great list of speakers for all the other sessions.

·       Steve Levitt covers some of Ted Miguel’s greatest hits – a nice conversation between the two of them on the People I Mostly Admire podcast – and hear why Ted tanked Steve’s retirement funds. There is also an interesting comment by Levitt on how hard they found it to track kids in the U.S., helping put the long-run panels in developing countries in perspective.

·       Abhijit Banerjee has a cookbook out – and this Mint lounge essay by him is a lovely read on his love of, and approach to, cooking, and how he likes to create stories around the dishes he is cooking: “the best meals are good stories…Some of those plans are ironic: Andhra-style Ribs with Nepali Alu Achaar and Stir-Fried Green Cabbage, as a comment on the American classic, ribs-potato salad-slaw. Others are political: the wonderful Afghan Kabuli Pullao with the Spinach Pachadi from Kerala, at the very other end of the subcontinent, for the orange, green and white combo that represents the harmonious ideal embodied in the Indian tricolour, alas increasingly forgotten”.

·       This came out last year, but I only came across it now – a nice ATAI blog by Lauren Falcao Bergquist and Craig McIntosh about their large experiment on building a digital marketplace for agriculture and Uganda. “Information was sent every two weeks for three years, meaning that we contacted individuals to provide price information more than 270,000 times as a part of the study….Over the course of a three-year intervention, our system saw 23,768 asks (offers to sell) posted by over 4,000 unique users, for a total of $42 million in asks.  30,499 bids (offers to purchase) were posted by just under 3,000 unique users, for a total of $65 million.  ….   The system generated 1,306 completed and verified sales, moving about 8,000 tons of grain….the results of the study suggest that this information/IT intervention was successful in triggering several forms of market convergence, but the resulting changes were not large enough to result in transformative improvements for farmers.”

·       On the AfricaCan blog, Jonathan Lain and Tara Vishwanath describe how the pandemic has affected Nigeria, and use 12 rounds of monthly phone surveys to trace the trajectory of food insecurity. In a second part, they then look at the labor market impacts and access to remote learning over on the Brookings blog.

·       An interesting paper by Marcus Biermann(a job market student) who looks at how economics seminars changed with the use of remote seminars during the COVID-19 pandemic: There were 12 percent fewer seminars and 15 percent fewer individual speakers giving seminars in his sample of seminars at over 260 universities, central banks and international organizations. “the technology shock had important distributional consequences. Speakers at the top of the productivity distribution gained shares following the technology shock. The results show that in particular top economists in terms of recent output and top young economists held relatively more seminars. At the institutional level, speakers from top institutions crowded out speakers from institutions in the bottom of the distribution. The propensity of high productivity speakers to give seminars at lower ranked institutions increased…The share of female speakers increased markedly after the technology shock (by 7.5 percentage points), which is partially driven by longer distances between female speakers and host institutions….The technology shock induced institutions to invite speakers from further away and speakers were more likely from abroad….The most significant surge was seen in seminars held by speakers from institutions in Europe hosted by institutions in America by about 65 percent.”

·       For the second year in a row, Leah Bevis organized a panel discussion on non-academic research jobs for development economists. A list of speakers and video can be found on her website.

·       An impressive coordinated multi-country study on community policing finds no effect: now out in Science, Graeme Blair and a large team of co-authors worked in partnership with local police agencies, to conduct six coordinated field experiments in Brazil, Colombia, Liberia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Uganda. The experiments implemented locally appropriate increases in community policing practices (e.g. foot patrols, community engagement programs like town halls, and hotlines to act on information from citizens to prevent crime),  and find these “led to no improvements in citizen-police trust, no greater citizen cooperation with the police, and no reduction in crime in any of the six sites”. They note “Three implementation challenges common to police reforms may have contributed to these disappointing results: a lack of sustained buy-in from police leadership, frequent rotation of police leadership and their officers, and a lack of resources to respond to issues raised by citizens.”.

·       A free 1 hour seminar by Asjad Naqvi on how to make maps in Stata, to be held January 19.

·       There is a new Journal of Comments and Replications in Economics, with David Jaeger as the editor.

·       Impact evaluation job openings: EDI Global seeks a Research Officer and a Senior Research Officer to work with their survey teams in the running of large-scale surveys and impact evaluations on health, agriculture, education and infrastructure topics.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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