Published on Development Impact

Weekly links July 21: a 1930s RCT revisited, brain development in poor infants, Indonesian status cards, and more…

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  • Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES): In Science this week, Seema Jayachandran and co-authors report on a RCT in Uganda that paid forest-owning households not to cut down their trees – “The program was implemented as a randomized controlled trial in 121 villages, 60 of which received the program for 2 years. The primary outcome was the change in land area covered by trees, measured by classifying high-resolution satellite imagery. We found that tree cover declined by 4.2% during the study period in treatment villages, compared to 9.1% in control villages. We found no evidence that enrollees shifted their deforestation to nearby land.”
  • Freakonomics has an interesting podcast this week on “when helping hurts” – about the long-term impacts of what is claimed here to be the first social program RCT – one that provided mentoring and summer camps to at-risk kids in Massachusetts. They discuss the remarkable persistence of Joan McCord in tracking people – including a great example where she wouldn’t take the families word someone was dead, and after a year of effort, interviewed him in a bar where he said his family had disowned him after he went to prison and consider him dead. But also a good lesson in how the best-laid plans to help people can sometimes harm them – aka why we need evaluations.
  • Job opportunities: The World Bank’s SIEF is hiring two consultants:
  1. A consultant for evidence and implementation reviews who will work on reviews that present experimental evidence on implementation questions that World Bank operational teams regularly discuss with client governments.
  2. A consultant for costing analysis  who will work on research related to the collection and analysis of cost data.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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