Published on Development Impact

Weekly links March 4: Country names in titles, learning losses in schools, bad bosses, missing Black physicists, and more…

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·       A good episode of the Freakonomics podcast covers the question of why there are so many bad bosses, and how to prevent the Peter Principle taking hold. Steve Tadelis discusses how this is being done in Silicon Valley and consulting firms to ensure that there are paths to promotion and higher rewards for top performers without having to become managers. However, “most firms stick with what they’ve always done: when an employee is good at what they do, you turn them into a manager to oversee other people who do what they used to do.”

·       A new study in PNAS looks at half a million social science papers from 1996 to 2020 to look at when the country is included in the title: “Some authors may select a bold title that glosses over the context, variability, uncertainty, and limitations of their results, trusting that a careful reading of the entire research will make these points clear. Other authors may prefer accuracy and informativeness when phrasing the titles of their studies. Crucially, authors might worry that mentioning a country name in the title may discourage potential readers, who might not consider research on this particular country to be relevant to their work”. They find papers on Asia and Africa are 1.5 to 1.8 times as likely to mention the country in the title as those on the US and Europe – and this is only based on studies that at least mention the country in the abstract.

·       At Project Syndicate, Susan Dynarski and Rachel Glennerster summarize some of the evidence on learning losses from school shutdowns during COVID and what is now needed in terms of policy.

·       On the Econthatmatters blog, Dan Maggio, Mahesh Karra and David Canning summarize the results of a family planning RCT in Malawi that led to improvements in child growth patterns and cognitive development for the children that parents did have. They link this to a Becker quality-quantity trade-off model

·       Given the diversity issues in economics, this Science magazine special package of stories on the barriers that Black physicists face and some of the promising initiatives may be of interest for ideas and comparison. “Some 30% of the 853 U.S. departments awarding (undergraduate) physics degrees did not graduate a single Black student between 1999 and 2020, and an additional 30% graduated just one or two….The demographics at the graduate level are even more depressing. Black students made up less than 1% of Ph.D. recipients in physics in 2019”. There is then a story on how Michigan’s Applied Physics program has been an exception, and another on how HBCUs had awarded the bulk of physics degrees awarded by Black students, despite only hosting 9% of all black undergraduates, but this has fallen dramatically in recent years. “If you study some small particle, you can … be funded for decades as long as you show progress. But if you are proposing to do something in STEM education, or institutional capacity building, you’re fortunate to get 5 years of funding. And then you’re expected to move onto something else.”

·       Job openings:

o   I’m looking for a field coordinator Position in Guatemala to work on a program piloting different alternatives to irregular migration

o   DIME has a recruitment drive looking to recruit 27 research assistants and field coordinators to work on impact evaluations.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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