Published on Development Impact

Weekly links May 16: the impact of flexible work schedules, the early days of evaluation in the US, savings groups, and more…

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  • RCT evidence Testing the impact of flexible work schedules: the Wall Street Journal reports on a study published in the American Sociological Review: “The six-month experiment focused on flexibility, defined as control over one’s schedule, and managers’ support of those practices. Almost 350 workers and supervisors participated in a flexibility program called STAR (“Support. Transform. Achieve. Results.”), while a similar-sized control group continued with business as usual—generally, working an average of 45 hours per week, mostly at the office and on a typical five-day schedule….Flexible programs also seemed to provide the most dramatic improvement in working fathers’ perception of their supervisors’ support for work-life balance—a result, the authors speculate, of managers’ assumption that mothers need more flexible workweeks than fathers do….Overall, parents in the STAR group reported working slightly less per week during the experiment, but that reduction did not seem to come at a cost to non-parents on staff…the project has since been discontinued because of leadership changes at the firm.”
  • Interesting reflections by Orley Ashenfelter on the early history of program evaluation at the US Department of Labor: “I think one of the most critical lessons learned from the program evaluation literature is the necessity of first showing that a program exists” and his reaction to the famous Ashenfelter dip “My own conclusion was that randomization was the only transparent and credible cure for this problem. An early summary of what we learned, and my plea for randomized trials, appeared in a paper I presented at the Industrial Relations Research Association Meetings in 1974. It is hard to appreciate today just how controversial this proposal was.”
  • A synthesis of 7 RCTs about savings groups from SEEP: “The availability of SGs clearly increases savings and the use of credit in treatment areas, but findings on asset ownership are mixed…” Impacts on businesses, health, and education are limited, but this may be because most of the studies measure only short-term impacts.
  • A new blog on growth economics :     one of the first posts is on defining development economics – “Perhaps the best way to define a development economist today is as someone whose presentation includes a picture of the village they worked in to collect data.” (It then goes on to argue that what most people in “development” do is not development – “Economic development is about the transition of whole economies from low-productivity, poor places into high-productivity industrial economies”).
  • The J-PAL monthly research newsletter has an update on the growth of the AEA RCT registry – now up to 145 registered trials in 44 different countries.
  • New IFPRI impact evaluations of cash vs food vs vouchers: evidence from a 4 country experiment.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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