Published on Development Impact

Weekly links February 4: hamburger failures and scale-ups, robots might not eat all those jobs, the gravity equation turns 60, and more…

This page in:

·       In the Economist, how recent work is revising the view that robots will destroy jobs – at the firm level they may increase jobs, but still open questions about the effects on job quality, and on the overall aggregate number of jobs in the economy.

·       Planet Money’s Newsletter covers how the failure of McDonald’s Arch Deluxe hamburger encapsulates several of the lessons of John List’s new book on scaling up: The Voltage Effect.

·       Michael Cameron has an interesting discussion on the gender gap in preferences and work aspirations and on understanding whether the issue is constraints, preferences or aspirations. He covers several recent research papers that discuss gender differences in job preferences across countries, and theories that wealthier and more gender empowered countries may end up having more gender inequality in certain types of occupations.

·       Jonathan Hersh started a nice thread in twitter with lots of good replies on different uses of machine learning in development economics.  I blogged about using ML and AI in development several years ago, but the thread includes lots of good recent applications.

·       On VoxEU, Yoto Yotov offers a celebration of the gravity model of trade as it turns 60. “Just like Newton's law of universal gravitation, the gravity equation of trade implies that trade (the gravitational force) between two countries (two objects) is directly proportional to the product of their sizes (masses) and inversely proportional to the trade frictions (the square of distance) between them. In other words, the larger and the closer two countries are, the more they trade with each other.

·       Advice on applying to PhD programs in economics if you are from Mexico or Argentina.

·       Reminder, the IGC-BREAD virtual PhD course is now underway, and slides and recordings of the first couple of lectures are now up online. I enjoyed Esther Duflo’s lecture yesterday explaining why schools tend to fail, giving new work on math in preschools and marketplaces, and discussion of where there seems to be most room politically to improve education (3-8 year olds).

·       An anthropological exploration of the structure of, and participants in, black markets for reselling food aid in Tanzanian refugee camps by Clayton Boeyink (ungated version). He notes that he learned about this market and met key players through a financial diaries exercise. “Through ‘agentive consumption’ … people sell to avoid ill health effects of items like maize flour and split peas, to avoid laborious and expensive preparation and cooking, and to eat more culturally appealing foods like dagaa and cassava flour…The ubiquity of these practices in camps produces a lucrative market. This pyramid-shaped food resale system has three somewhat amorphous layers. The bottom layer of the pyramid is comprised of madalali, which includes refugees like Victor and Sarah, Burundian undocumented migrants like Didier and Pascal, as well as neighbouring Tanzanians who sneak into the camp. Madalali take advances from or sell to refugee bosses, of which Dalia, Baraka and Paul are examples. These three have differing financial outlays, but all pay to receive protection from the police, controlled by a small committee of supervisors. This cartel structure gives rise to the threat of police violence against individuals like Félicien who attempt to bypass the rents and price fixing of the system to sell straight to Tanzanian bosses such as Ernest, Julia or other large Tanzanian or Burundian traders. Like smallholder farmers in the region surrounding the camps, refugee food sellers find little local demand for their products, because they are all selling the same things and have no access to markets where there is greater demand. … This means the sellers at the bottom of the pyramid have no leverage over prices, enabling those higher up the value chain to set prices which are favorable to them.” (h/t Jeff Mosenkis).


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