Published on Development Impact

Weekly links March 29: concentrating, benchmarking, power analysis for non-experiments, and more…

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Young boxers at the White Collars Boxing Match 2019, taken by Mariajose Silva Vargas

·       Apologies for the lack of recent posts. The World Bank has transitioned its blogs to a different hosting platform, which is much more cumbersome and slower for us to use. There are lots of teething issues we are trying to sort out. Note also that the homepage address for the blog has now changed to (although the old post links you have should hopefully redirect).

·       Cal Newport in the New Yorker on “how I learned to concentrate” – which teases for his new book and doesn’t really say a lot, except how theoreticians, and especially math theorists, work differently “Another lesson of my M.I.T. years was the fundamental separation between busyness and productivity. Scientists who work in labs, and have to run experiments or crunch numbers, can famously work long hours. Theoreticians can’t, as there’s only so much time you can usefully think about math. Right before a paper deadline, you might push hard to get results written up. On the other hand, weeks could go by with little more than the occasional brainstorming session. An average day might require two or three hours of hard cogitation….But despite long periods of apparent lethargy, we still were productive. By the time I left M.I.T. to start my job at Georgetown, I had already published twenty-six peer-reviewed papers—and yet I’d never really felt busy.”

·       A nice example of how to disseminate the findings of your paper through an animated video: Yun Hou and Ivan Png at NUS have a 6 minute video describing a benchmarking experiment they did with food stalls (hawkers) in Singapore. Showing firm owners their relative performance increased exit among poor performers.

·       Dave Evans (a former Development Impact regular), Pam Jakiela, and Amina Mendez Acosta have a blog over at the IDB suggesting that most childcare programs (daycare, preschool, and kindergarten) tend to have beneficial impacts for children—along with the well-established benefits for mothers (in English and Spanish). It’s based on their forthcoming AEA P&P article.

·       Arnold Ventures has put together some notes for grant applicants on power analysis for experimental and non-experimental designs. One important thing they ask for is “Anticipated effect size in real-world terms (e.g. dollars) and rationale for why this is the anticipated effect” – so many people just end up saying an effect size in S.D. units without saying what this means. In discussing power calcs for non-experimental analysis, they note “there exist numerous components of an empirical model (e.g. large sets of covariates, fixed effects, random effects, etc.) that make it very difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate power using an extension of typical approach employed in experimental studies. To assess power for a specific non-experimental research design, we recommend a simulation-based approach”. They include some links for how to do this, including linking to some of our old posts.

·       GAIN is looking for mentors to support African prospective students in the application process for grad school in economics. In particular, they are looking for professors, post-docs or PhD students, with experience with the application process for grad school in economics or related fields. They ask those interested in and available to serve as a mentor to register in this link on our website by April 21st, 2024.

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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