Published on Development Impact

Weekly links January 28: celebrating rejections, wage setting, saying no more, and more….

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·       In the Atlantic, a lab has a party to celebrate every 100 academic rejections they receive. “When Vickers scrolled through the reel of rejections, she saw that Sarnecka, who is clearly a successful scientist, had gotten rejected for grants. She saw that students on the verge of earning their Ph.D.s had been rebuffed for jobs. By the time she read through the 48 rejections already in the document, Vickers’s rejection felt minor in comparison. What’s more, those rows on the spreadsheet rejiggered her conception of success. “I had always assumed that once you were successful, you would just continue to be successful eternally somehow,” she told me. Here was evidence that the lives of the successful could be littered with rejection.”…..There is also a nice bit about the value of a collective rejection sheet for a group “While rejection threatens our sense of belonging and heightens worries about how others see us, the rejection collection affirms that we belong. The irony, he noted, is that you’re accepted to the group based on being rejected.”

·       “the time has come to recognize that many – or even most – firms have some wage‐setting power” – David Card’s AEA Presidential Address. “Four new types of evidence have accumulated in the past 25 years that suggest employer wage‐setting power is non‐negligible: evidence on quit and recruiting responses to wages; evidence on the relationship between wages and firm productivity; evidence on the concentration of employment in small numbers of employers; and evidence of conspiracies and other forms of firm behavior targeted at suppressing firm‐to‐firm mobility and wage growth.”

·       A new outcome to measure in your cash transfer program? The New York Times covers a paper in PNAS which found that a cash transfer to mothers in the first year of their children’s lives appears to have impacts on babies’ brain activities. How’s this for some research fundraising?: “To test the effects of cash aid, Baby’s First Years raised more than $20 million from public and private sources, including the National Institutes of Health. Researchers recruited participants from maternity wards in New York City, Minneapolis-St. Paul and the metro areas of New Orleans and Omaha, randomly assigning them to the high- and low-payment groups.”. The article is also notable for showing how interest groups use the exact same findings to push very different policy conclusions. However, Andrew Gelman is skeptical the effect size is big enough to detect given the sample size and variation in the data.

·       Something I need to keep working on, the focus to say no: “Saying no to mediocre opportunities is easy. Saying no to good opportunities is hard….Saying no is like saving your money in the bank, whereas saying yes is spending it. Most of us are on overdraft.”

·       Chris Blattman excerpts some interesting passages from Pranab Bardhan’s memoirs.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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