Published on Development Impact

Weekly links March 9: export super-stars, poor stats on poor women, psychosocial interventions for refugees, psychologists up their game, and more...

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  • Among the many posts on international women’s day, I thought our readers might find most useful this one on measurement of poverty and gender by Carolina Sanchez and Ana-Maria Munoz-Boudet “No, 70% of the world’s poor aren’t women, but this doesn’t mean poverty isn’t sexist
  • Emergency loans that are automatically given out when disaster hits as a substitute for microinsurance – summarized by Feed the Future – “Results ... show that the availability of emergency loans has had a big effect on how these farmers manage risk. Households who knew they were pre-qualified planted about 25 percent more rice than households who were not offered the emergency loan” (h/t Mushfiq Mobarak).
  • Video and slides from Ana Fernandes’ policy research talk on exporter dynamics, superstar firms, and trade policy – it is stunning how large a share of exports from many developing countries comes from the top 1% or even top 5 exporters.
  • Have you questioned your life choices enough lately? If not, Video of Lant Pritchett’s talk last month at NYU’s DRI on “The Debate about RCTs in Development is over. We won. They lost”
  • Perhaps a partial counter to Lant or a proof of many of his points – Nature reports on a case of experimentation at scale – millions of Chinese farmers reap benefits of huge crop experiment – “From 2005 to 2015, the project team conducted 13,123 field studies at maize (corn), rice and wheat farms across the country, from the subtropical south to the frigid north. The researchers tested how yields varied with different crop varieties, planting times, planting densities, fertilizer and water use. They also measured sunlight and the effect of the climate on farm production”, “The project, which also provided on-site demonstrations and high-quality seeds and fertilizers at some sites, cost around $54 million. To enrol and educate the farmers, more than 1,000 researchers across China worked with 65,000 bureaucrats and technicians at provincial or county agricultural agencies and with 140,000 representatives from agriculture businesses”... “As part of a decade-long study, scientists analysed vast amounts of agricultural data to develop improved practices, which they then passed on to smallholders. Through a national campaign, about 20.9 million farmers adopted the recommendations, which increased productivity and reduced environmental impacts. As a result of the intervention, farmers were together US$12.2 billion better off.”
  • Fascinating twitter thread by Sanjay Srivastava summarizing a symposium session on new results from ego-depletion studies  that highlights a coordinated attempt to deal with replication and transparency  - the same 2 experiments were conducted in 36 different labs, all pre-registered, analysis done both frequentist and Bayesian and done by independent researchers, the participating labs learnt the results at the same time as everyone in the audience...
  • A special issue of the Review of Economics of the Household in honor of Angus Deaton is now out, with lots of papers inspired by Deaton’s research.
  • The DIME Analytics newsletter does a paper-by-paper summary of the AI and development conference that I blogged about earlier this week
  • In Science last week, Emily Underwood on the range of psychosocial interventions being tested for refugees and in war zones: “In  2016,  an  article  in  Current Psychiatry   Reports reviewed data   on  24  mental  health  and  psychosocial  programs  conducted  in  nine  countries,  including  Bosnia,  Uganda,  and  Nepal.  The researchers  found  that  although  all interventions  had  some  positive  impact  on  mental  health,  less  than  half  met  their  goals. Nearly a quarter had a negative impact on an endpoint the program aimed to improve, such  as symptoms  of  depression  or  PTSD.  Some  programs  worked  in  one  country  but  failed  in  another”....and so local context is very important – an example being locus of control which is “problematic among people anchored by religion. An internal locus of control is the conviction that success comes thanks to one’s one efforts, such as hard work, rather than external factors...the concept didn’t resonate with religious parents who believe that life unfolds according to God’s will”...and discussions of the challenges of measurement, and how the people running the program may interpret impact evaluation results differently from the researchers: “Mercy Corps interpreted the findings as a win. “Now we can confidently say that our work does make a difference”...but Dajani and Panter-Brick (the researchers) say the reality is more nuanced” not meeting their definition of resilience and showing no impact on teens’ social support.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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