Published on Development Impact

Weekly links July 2: short paper options, dowry trends, a scale-up failure, what India’s education system gets wrong, and more…

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·       NPR’s Goats and Soda blog covers work by Dave Evans and Fei Yuan on how gender-neutral programs can be just as effective at improving girls' education as programs designed just for girls

·       Dave Evans has updated his Google sheet of journals with short paper options

·       Peter Walker profiles Rohini Pande in the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine: with a nice discussion of much of her impressive body of research, how she changed her mind about affirmative action, and what is coming next.

·       On Let’s Talk Development, S Anukriti, Nishith Prakash and Sungoh Kwon have a two-part series on the evolution of dowry in India and how this institution affects household decisions in rural India

·       Another example of the challenges involved in scaling up a promising pilot – Xavi Gine, Jessica Goldberg and Dean Yang discuss the issues involved in trying to scale up their work (published in the AER in 2012) on using finger prints as a unique ID for credit histories in Malawi in this IPA brief.

·       Petra Todd and Ken Wolpin have a forthcoming paper in the JEL on combining RCTs with structural modeling (earlier ungated version). One important point is that doing this well has implications for data collection “A requirement for combining these approaches is that the experimental data go beyond measurement of treatment status and outcomes. Successful empirical implementation of behavioral models requires that the key variables governing decision-making, as described by the model, be measured.” Another is the importance of using theory to help inform the choice of a hold-out sample for out-of-sample model validation – they give an example where the take-up rate is needed to identify a stigma parameter, and so using the control group data alone to fit the model would not be very accurate. However, overall, I found the paper a bit of a disappointing read. Mostly the paper just summarizes a variety of studies that have combined experimental or quasi-experimental impact evaluation with a structural model, and there is not much guidance on the specifics (e.g. no list of the most important types of variables to try and measure to allow for structural estimation later, no implications for experimental design, no guidance for how an outside reader should assess how believable the resulting structural estimates are, etc.).

·       In the South African Centre for Development and Enterprise Forum, Ann Bernstein interviews Lant Pritchett: Discussing the importance of prioritizing national development; his thoughts on Indonesia and India’s education systems “India never changed its mind about having a selection system rather than an education system. A selection system is where you put all children in a classroom, but provide a poor or indifferent environment for learning, and see what happens. The students that learn in that environment must be brilliant. As for those who do not learn, teachers will say they must be the type of children who cannot learn. India took that option because they expected that 2-3% of the population would be an educated elite, and that would be good enough. And so, they committed themselves to selection rather than education. Things will only change once they fundamentally change their ideas, which they are hopefully in the process of doing now.” ; and why developing countries should not adapt best practices “when you give the M16 with its perfect design to a poor soldier it won’t work…You need to design the programme for the soldiers you have.”

·       The BREAD Conference on the Economics of Africa will take place virtually next week on July 7, 8 and 9. The programme and registration link are here.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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