Published on Development Impact

Weekly links June 9: competitive Indians x2, macrodevelopment, peanuts for the people, and more…

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·       On VoxDev, Kunal Mangal looks at the downside of India’s system of highly competitive exams for the public sector (and of the fact that government jobs get such sustained focus from jobseekers who ignore private sector options). Using a partial hiring freeze in Tamil Nadu, he notes “Application rates are so high that, in 2013, more than one in four recent college graduates appeared for one of these exams. To remain competitive against so many applicants, over 100,000 individuals across the state stay unemployed and study full-time for these exams…. I find that the cohorts of male college graduates in Tamil Nadu who were most exposed to the policy were on average 9 percentage points less likely to be employed during the hiring freeze… About 10 years after the hiring freeze ended, these cohorts appeared to be worse off on a wide range of indicators. They had lower employment rates; lower earning capacities; and delayed forming their own households. “

·       More on the competition for top places in India – in a NBER working paper, Prithwiraj Choudhury, Ina Ganguli & Patrick Gaulé look at the migration rates of the top achievers in the entrance exam used for admission to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). “nearly one million exam takers compete for less than ten thousand spots…we document a salient correlation between an individual’s score on the JEE exam and migration up to eight years later among the top exam takers. Among the top 100 scorers, for instance, 62% have migrated abroad, primarily to the U.S. and for graduate school. Among the top 1,000 scorers, 36% have migrated abroad”

·       In The Times of India, Abhijit Banerjee discusses the love of immigrants for food that reminds them of home, highlights some of Mahesh Shreshtha’s work on the fears that Nepalese migrants have, and gives his recipe for Koshari. One of a series of monthly columns he has about economics, food, and life. Here is March’s entry about stunting, low protein consumption in India, and why Indians should eat more peanuts.

·       On Inside Higher Ed, Toni Whited offers her advice on how to prevent audience rudeness and maintain control during your research presentations. E.g. “avoid broad generalizations at the very beginning of the talk…in part because some audience members can end up disappointed, as they might think that the talk is about these motivating ideas and not the actual narrower topic…to avoid this type of interruption, begin with your specific research question, which ensures that the audience will focus on your work rather than on tangential topics”

·       “A chief reason why many remain poor in the world is simply the macroeconomy into which they were born” – Buera, Kaboski and Townsend in the JEL discuss how to improve macrodevelopment policy by combining micro and macro. They draw several lessons including:

o   Aggregate resource constraints on key inputs can make aggregate impacts of scaled policies smaller than implied by RCT evidence

o   Heterogeneity means the largest players have disproportionate impacts on aggregates but are often underrepresented in micro studies

o   General equilibrium effects can redistribute, potentially reinforcing or counteracting partial equilibrium effects

o   Capital accumulation responds to prices, which can make long-run impacts much larger than short-run impacts (or go the other way)

o   Economies of scale can make large-scale policy proportionally more powerful than micro interventions

·       On VoxDev, Daniel Mejia, Mounu Prem and Juan Vargas discuss the announcement effects of future drug policies in Colombia: they highlight how a 2014 announcement that a future peace agreement would provide compensation to growers of illicit coca crops caused a surge in the area planted with coca  in anticipation of the future benefits promised.

·       Conference call for papers: SEEDEC – Symposium of Economic Experiments in Developing Countries will be held at GRIPS in Tokyo in September – submissions of an extended abstract due June 20 – for work doing lab and lab-in-the-field experiments in developing countries.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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