Published on Development Impact

Weekly links July 14: Indian marriage markets and police stations, intervention X reduces poverty does not mean lack of X is the main reason for poverty, and more…

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·       In Science, Sandip Sukhtankar, Gabriele Kruks-Wisner and Akshay Mangla report on an RCT that aimed to increase reporting of gender-based violence in Madhya Pradesh, India. They introduce Women’s Help Desks (WHDs) as private spaces for female complaints within police stations, conduct officer training and outreach, and in one treatment arm, also assign female officers to staff these help desks “Drawing on the largest randomized controlled trial of a police reform to date (180 police stations serving 23.4 million people), we find that officers in stations with WHDs are more likely to register cases of GBV, particularly where female officers run the desks.”. The magnitudes are about 2 more cases reported per branch per month, from a very low control mean. However, this did not lead to any detectable increase in arrests being made for crimes against women, although the confidence intervals includes up to 1 more arrest per branch per month, or 0.5 fewer arrests per branch per month.  

·       “Among the top 15 programs, 78 percent of new PhDs since 2010 had a parent with a graduate degree while just 6 percent are first-generation college students.” – the Washington Post’s Department of Data covers work on the lack of socioeconomic diversity among U.S. economics PhD students. However, economics programs do take a lot more international students than many other PhD programs (even back when I did grad school, my cohort of 24 students at Yale only had 4 Americans), and so focusing on the background of U.S.-born PhDs always strikes me as a cut of the data that is not that useful. But economics also tends to have a higher share of foreign-born students having a parent with graduate education than many other disciplines too.

·       On Ideas for India, Diva Dhar discusses work on the marriage market penalty in India for working women – using a correspondence experiment on an Indian matchmaking website. “All else being equal, I find that women who have never worked are likely to get the highest number of positive responses from male users. Around 70% of men will accept their responses. Next, women who have worked but are willing to give up work after marriage receive around 66% responses – but these are not statistically significant for the most part. However, there is a sharp drop in response for women who want to continue working after marriage. Their acceptances rates are at 59.6% and 54.7% for the high income (HIW+) and low income (LIW+) groups respectively”.

·       “while adding “life skills training” or “community sensitization on aspirations and social norms” to anti-poverty programs might be cost-effective and have a high rate of return, that is not how, in fact, poverty has been substantially reduced in any country, ever. That has been through raising the productivity of the place so that individuals can use their resources to generate higher levels of income. Moreover, it makes my very, very nervous that papers will be used (wrongly) to claim “since psychosocial interventions reduce poverty, poverty was caused by a lack of psychosocial skills.” People in Niger are poor primarily because of the very limited choices they have not primarily because of the choices they make.” – Lant Pritchett on interpreting results from a paper on unbundling poverty graduation programs, which Markus blogged about in May.

·       On Let’s Talk Development, Ugo Gentilini offers his 10 lessons from the largest scale up of cash transfers in history (those during the pandemic). “Transfers reached over 1.3 billion individuals globally, but the average coverage rate of the population in low-income countries was in single digits…. Transfers were generous, but not enough to counter forgone labor incomes. Most studies show that cash transfers provided significant support in mitigating the effects of the pandemic, but without countering its full impact”.

·       A J-PAL blog on how to use their Dataverse to find survey data, replication files, and questionnaires/survey questions on particular topics.

·       On the Devpolicy blog, Kulani Abendroth-Dias argues that Sri Lanka needs more than economic reform: “The sexism that is rampant in Sri Lanka is often intertwined with anti-Western propaganda. Equity is defined as a construct of the West, and misogyny is folded into culture: instead of giving women the ability to choose, it is said to be culturally appropriate “to do something at home”… Strongman politics, anti-Western bluster and pervasive social sexism have contributed to damaging brain drain and led the country to the brink of a failed state. Sri Lanka will be able to truly recover only when this trifecta of obstacles is abandoned. Otherwise, it will continue to see its young people leave and half of its population sidelined.”.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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