Published on Development Impact

Weekly links July 7: kinship networks and aspirations, loss-frames and trust, underpowered polisci, and more…

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·       On VoxDev, Emily Beam and co-authors provide one explanation for why a loss-frame is  more effective than a gain-frame as an incentive to undertake preventative healthcare – “individuals are more responsive to a Visa gift card that they can activate by going to a health clinic than to the promise of an activated Visa gift card upon visiting the clinic…The most common explanation for the effectiveness of loss framing is prospect theory – loss-averse people are reluctant to give up something once they feel they have ownership over it. However, loss framing may also affect recipients’ perceptions of the likelihood that a particular offer is valid. In a world in which respondents do not fully trust that the incentive offer is legitimate or believe that the implementing organisation may not follow through, the loss-framed incentive may be valued more highly, or, in this context, lead to higher take-up”. The loss frame resulted in 30 percent take-up versus 28 percent in the gain frame.

·       I listened to the New Bazaar podcast episode on the life and works of Leonard Wantchekon recently. Even though I have heard parts of Leonard’s story several times and read a lot of his work, I still found lots new here. One of the parts that struck me most was a discussion of the role of the extended family system in Africa. Often a lot of attention is given to the idea of a kinship tax, and how the obligation to help the extended family may hold back certain types of investments – but Leonard spoke compellingly of how this can also create the aspirations and support structure needed to encourage investments in human capital, and how this concept that my nephews are like my own children, and that I also get credit for their success, can spur these positive spillovers. A highly recommended listen.

·       Slides and coding workshop data and code are now up and freely for five of the Mixtape sessions classes organized by Scott Cunningham – material on causal inference in general, and special sessions on shift-share IV and on advanced DiD.

·       A new working paper by Arel-Bundock and co-authors combines standard errors from published studies with estimates of the population treatment effects from meta-analyses to do ex-post power calculations for political science papers. The scary conclusion is that many studies in political science are horribly underpowered “collating over 16,000 hypothesis tests from about 2,000 articles. Even with generous assumptions, the median analysis has about 10% power, and only about 1 in 10 tests have at least 80% power to detect the consensus effects reported in the literature.”

·       “In discussions with employees, one of the major complaints I hear is having to travel to the office to spend the day there shouting at their laptop to connect with co-workers still at home” – Nick Bloom on getting employees back in the office, the futility of making it 5 days a week, and his advice for making it work better through anchor days.

·       Should the Effective Altruism movement make more speculative investments where the evidence base is promising but a lot less clear? Richard Sedlmayr provides some discussion and survey evidence from his network to argue yes.

·       The NBER Summer Institute starts next week. Here is the list of sessions with links to papers being presented. The Development program runs July 25-27, and it seems will be also broadcast on YouTube.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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