Published on Development Impact

Weekly links May 18: complementing research, more on the benefits of migration and on why more people don’t take advantage, people like self-employment even if they don’t earn more, and more…

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·       The Econ that really matters blog starts an interview series, with Chris Barrett as the first interviewee. They start by asking him to define what is development economics right now, his views on the future of agricultural economics, and then he offers plenty of advice for students: “If one goes to work for a CGIAR center or the World Bank or the IMF or a business one is going to wind up spending a lot of non-research time; it just won’t be teaching. It’ll be advising clients or advising operational folks, or any of a whole host of other activities. So there are very few pure research jobs because research is expensive. It’s a cost center for most organizations. So figure out what you like to do to complement your research. You get a Ph.D. because you want to do research. That’s how you want to have impact, and that’s what you’d like to spend some of your time doing for the rest of your professional career.  But you’ve got to figure out what you like to complement it with. That’s one of the two most fundamental questions I think graduate students have to ask themselves.  What do I like doing besides research? And then let me get good at that.”…” I think the most the most dangerous choice graduate students make is trying to follow a fashion to do what they think will sell.”….” The marginal returns to a day spent with a non-economist is much higher than the marginal return to a day spent with an economist, in my experience. Other economists and I know a lot of the same stuff; but when I’m with a soil scientist or a hydrologist, or a nutritionist, or a parasitologist, I’m just learning at an incredible rate. And sometimes they are, too! Together you can make some real advances by working across those boundaries, if you’re willing to take the time and the risk”. He also has a nice discussion on whether to be broad or to specialize in a niche – a great interview!

·       On VoxDev, Mobarak, Sharif and Shrestha highlight the effects on Bangladeshi families of having migrant workers move to Malaysia under a visa lottery – and a nice example of the excess demand for legal migration opportunities: “Malaysia initially offered 30,000 work visas to Bangladeshis and the Government of Bangladesh advertised the opportunity in local newspapers seeking applications from interested candidates. Within a few weeks, 1.43 million Bangladeshis applied for the 30,000 visas available.” And large impacts “Migration increases individual incomes three-fold due to the higher wages that migrants earn in Malaysia relative to those who lose the lottery. Meanwhile, the incomes of their households in Bangladesh double because these migrants send significant shares of their incomes home in the form of remittances. The higher income boosts the family’s living standards through higher consumption (more daily expenditures, durable assets, and land, plus better dwelling and improved sanitation facilities) and investments in their children (more nutritious food, more schooling, and lower child labour). Consequently, migration lowers poverty and food insecurity in the household.”

·       On VoxDev Talks, Eric Mvukiyehe and Subha Mani discuss their recent meta-analysis of public works programs. “Overall, the stylized message from the review is that public works programs have been relatively more successful in delivering on their short-run objectives to raise individuals’ employment and earnings, rather than in achieving medium-run impacts on participants’ economic outcomes or broader effects on household-level outcomes.”

·       Twitter thread by Leo Ahrens on a Stata ado called scatterfit he wrote to provide a one-stop command for scatter plots with fit lines.

·       A nice summary on the Microeconomic Insights site of Bassi et al’s work in Uganda on how small manufacturing firms achieve scale collectively through using rental markets to share large expensive machinery – and what this means for our view of the firm size distribution: “We usually define the size of a firm as the number of workers employed by the firm owner. However, the presence of the rental market suggests that it might be meaningful to redefine a firm as a group of workers sharing the same machines. Once we do so, medium-sized “firms” start to appear: the share of firms with more than ten employees grows from 5% to 33%”

·       Melissa Siegel made a nice video explaining different reasons people do not migrate more, based on my recent Fears and Tears paper. Check out her YouTube channel for lots of other videos providing information about different migration issues

·       On the CGD Blog, Pam Jakiela reports on the 6-year impacts of cash grants and a microfranchising program in Kenya: “Both the multifaceted microfranchising program and the one-off grant really did seem to have a permanent impact on young women’s occupational trajectories. The programs enabled (some of) them to become entrepreneurs, and they are still entrepreneurs. Second, the positive impacts on income—which were there in Year 1 but had disappeared by Year 2—seem to be gone for good. With the additional statistical power from three rounds of Year 6 survey data, we can be fairly confident that neither intervention had meaningful long-term impacts on labor income. So, why have the young women stayed in self-employment? The short answer is that they like it: almost all women in all treatment arms indicated that they prefer self-employment to working for someone else.”

·       Vincent Arel-Bundock analyzes 19,000 R Scripts on the Dataverse to see which R packages are the most used (note this is across fields, not just for economics papers): Top 5 are ggplot2, dplyr, foreign, stargazer, and tidyverse.

·       New conference: MEUDC (yes, that first letter is an M): On November 6-8, NYU Abu Dhabi will host the first of what we hope to be a new series of annual conferences on sustainable economic development in the middle eastern region and surrounding regions. This year, the conference will take place a few days prior to COP 28, also in Abu Dhabi, and will focus on climate change and sustainability, and cover topics related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, low carbon growth, water challenges, and food security.  They invite researchers to submit papers related to these topics. Early-stage researchers from Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian universities are especially encouraged to apply. The conference aims to cultivate high-quality research in the region and foster meaningful interactions between researchers and policymakers. Travel and accommodation costs will be provided to selected speakers. To apply, submit your paper here by 15th June.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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