Published on Development Impact

Weekly links March 26: the new hybrid office, satellites for sustainable development, health financing RCTs, migration explainers, and more…

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·       Another piece of evidence in the “never run regressions with macro data on remittances” folder – Besart Avdiu and Mortiz Meyer discuss the case of remittances to The Gambia, where the COVID-19 pandemic was expected to lead to a big drop in remittances, and household surveys find 85% of households reporting a decline in remittances and only 1% reporting an increase – and yet the macro data in the balance of payments show a massive 89% increase in remittances this year!

·       A review article by Burke et al. in Science discusses using satellite imagery to understand and promote sustainable development: “Integration of satellite-based sustainability measurements into research has been broad, and we describe applications in agriculture, fisheries, health, and economics. Documented uses of these measurements in public-sector decision-making are rarer, which we attribute in part to the novelty of the approaches, their lack of interpretability, and the potential benefits to some policy-makers of not having certain outcomes be measured”…” the widest application of satellite-based measures in public-sector decision-making is in the population domain. For instance, the United Nations World Food Programme and the US government both use gridded population estimates to inform needs assessments and target humanitarian response after natural disasters.”…” the largest constraint to model development is now training data rather than imagery. While imagery has become abundant, the scarcity and, in many settings, unreliability of ground data make both training and validation of satellite-based models difficult”

·       In the NY Times, Amy Finkelstein discusses the new wave of government randomized trials on health care financing in the U.S.: “How could the federal government randomly assign hospitals or physicians to different reimbursement rules? Many experts said it couldn’t be done. Now we know that it can. The government’s Innovation Center — which Congress created in 2011 to develop and evaluate new ways of financing health care — has started five large-scale randomized trials of new Medicare payment rules.”

·       I thought this Nick Bloom piece in the Guardian was excellent on what the post-pandemic hybrid office arrangements may look like in many organizations: “As companies come to decisions on new working arrangements, they will be essentially making a basic trade-off: the expectation of greater creativity in new projects at the office, but greater productivity on existing tasks at home. And, as with most trade-offs, the right answer is not all or nothing – five days or zero days at home – but something in the middle. It seems, from talking to more than 100 firms, this would be three days a week in the office…Patterns will obviously vary, but a common thread would be something like Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the office and Wednesday and Friday at home. This is the classic 3-2 plan that large firms such as Google, Salesforce, Facebook, and HSBC have already announced.”

·       In VoxDev, Custódio, Mendes and Metzger summarize an experiment with 93 firms in Mozambique that provided an 18-hour exec-ed financial education to executives of medium and large firms, finding this improved working capital management in the short-run.

·       Melissa Siegel, a Professor of Migration Studies at the Maastricht School of Governance, has set up a YouTube channel with over 50 videos on migration – including country case studies and short explainers on different topics. This interview gives the background behind this endeavor.

·       Gender differences in learning development economics online: Elizabeth Cao and Maya Duru on the JPAL blog discuss the experience of the MITx Micromasters program: “four years into the program we are seeing that women enroll in the program at half the rate of men. Conditional on enrolling, women are also less likely to complete the MicroMasters program than men”. They then report on survey data designed to understand what the constraints are, and on A/B testing used to see what messages persuade women to enrol in advanced classes.

·       Call for papers: Online BREAD conference on economics of Africa. Paper deadline May 3; and a reminder of the April 2 deadline for submissions to the next BREAD conference (hosted by NYU)


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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