Published on Development Impact

Weekly links March 15: when vs what in policy research, what’s new in the last decade of development research, life skills for girls, and more…

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·       A nice post on the CGD blog by Ranil Dissanayake , Janeen Madan Keller and Erin Collinson discusses some key issues and questions about translating research into policy. “it’s at least as important to ask when—and under what circumstances—policymakers are receptive to evidence? Our experience is that from a policymaker's perspective, when is often a more fundamental question than what; and, to more fully understand the policymaking process, it needs to be answered first. Policymaking is non-linear: it isn’t an act of constantly making things happen, nor is it continuously revisiting and reconsidering all previously made decisions to iterate and refine. It ebbs and flows but there are typically critical inflection points or windows when evidence can be brought to bear on decision-making….And because the transmission of evidence is relational, the messenger can matter as much as the method. That is, the question of who is providing the evidence becomes crucial, too.”

·       Alice Evans’ podcast “Rocking our Priors” interviews Suhani Jalota and Lisa Ho about their work on why female labor force participation in India is so low. Learn about all the interesting nuggets that didn’t make it into the job market papers.

·       YouTube video of Abhijit and Esther discussing Poor Economics almost 15 years later (written in 2009 and published in 2011) – they discuss what they think they got right, what has changed since the time they wrote the book, and what they have learnt since then. E.g. On education they still see pedagogy as the key; On health, they see the book not emphasizing the importance of trust in the health system, which recent studies have emphasized more; On credit and entrepreneurship, what they had missed was by focusing on the mean was the heterogeneity in benefits from access to microcredit, with those who already had businesses to begin with benefiting as well as work on grants showing heterogeneous returns in a predictable way;  and then things that they didn’t talk about in the book that matter and that there has been a lot of research since on: (1) social transfers and UBIs (issues of targeting, conditions, cash vs in-kind, multiplier effects); (2)  women in the labor market; (3) climate change (still very little to say on proactive adaption). Other videos from the symposium are also up on the STIAS YouTube page.

·       On VoxDev, Lin Yang and co-authors summarize their forthcoming AEJ Policy paper on the impacts of China’s air quality monitoring system: “Judging from ground monitor readings, the campaign has achieved remarkable success: the national level PM2.5 levels declined by about 40% from 2014 to 2019”. Using a spatial DiD design with fine-scale (1kmx1km) remote sensing data the authors use the staggered roll-out to look at impacts at different distances from monitoring stations within each city and find that “areas adjacent to automated monitors experienced a 3.2% decrease in PM2.5 concentrations compared to those farther away” . That is, cleaning efforts were strategically done close to the monitoring stations, which may exaggerate the actual improvement in air quality at the city level.

·       A JPAL policy brief summarizes 16 evaluations of life skills programs for adolescent girls. “Life skills programmes had a consistently positive impact on outcomes related to "power within" and education,  with more mixed impacts on outcomes related to labour, child marriage and pregnancy, as well as gender-based violence.”

·       On the Stata blog, more on creating customizable tables with the new features in versions 17 and 18.

·       On the JPAL blog, Kelsey Jack and Jack Ellington discuss some uses and lessons from incorporating remote sensing data into randomized evaluations, introducing a longer guidelines document.

·       Transcript of an interview with Steve Levitt about him retiring from academia, his recollections of life in the Chicago department, and some crazy Jim Heckman stories, unusual types of lectures he did (including why he took his students to fire guns), and more. And on his foray into field experiments “I thought I would be good at doing field experiments, and .. it turned out I wasn't. I was never very good at coming up with these great ideas about how to use randomization to answer questions”

·       VoxDev is hiring a Deputy Managing Editor to be based in London or Paris and work to “to help translate complex, technical material from frontier economic research into short- and long-format pieces for academic, student and policy audiences….This post would suit a strong MSc/MA student, or outstanding Bachelors student, who is passionate about evidence-based policymaking and envisions a career within the development sector or moving on to a top PhD programme in economics.”


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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