Published on Development Impact

Weekly links May 31: will voluntary carbon credits work, identification trends, publishing trends, and more…

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

·       In Science, Rohini Pande discusses whether the market in voluntary carbon credits can help reduce global emissions: “According to the FT, a member of SBTi’s technical advisory board who resigned over the issue claimed that voluntary carbon credits are “scientifically, socially and from a climate perspective a hoax” that could provide a “survival floor for fossil fuel companies’ super-large scope-3 [value chain emissions],” whereas, on the other side, one person present at the decision-making meeting claimed, “Many people believe the only way to create demand at scale for these projects is by getting SBTi to allow offsetting.”… So, who is right?” – she then goes to discuss how the market is not functioning well, with widely different prices that are not public. …”The result of this structure is a market that allows less-scrupulous promoters to sell low-quality carbon-reduction projects that, at best, do not reduce emissions as intended, and, at worst, have not even been implemented in the manner that buyers are assured they have.”

·       Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham has a new working paper that uses NLP on NBER working papers to track the rise of a focus on identification and use of different causal estimation methods over time. Among the findings:

o   Over the 2000-2024 period, the ratio of mentions of figures to tables has doubled, showing the graphical revolution; the share of papers that mention administrative data has gone from less than 5 percent to almost 25 percent; and finance and macro are now increasingly using these methods “In terms of mentions of identification, finance and macro/other are roughly where applied micro was between 2008 and 2010”

o   The rise of difference-in-differences over time is seen with about 10% of applied micro papers mentioning this method in the early 2000s, to just over 30% in the most recent years.

o   Bartik/shift-share instruments have taken off since around 2017 (or at least papers mentioning them by this term), but are still only 4% of applied micro papers, and only about 13% of papers that use IV. The growth has been most pronounced in International Trade and Investment, where almost 10% mention shift-share.

o   RCTs have grown from around 10% of papers in 2012 (when development was first introduced as an NBER program) to around 20% of applied micro papers today.

o   Development Economics, Health, Education, and Children program papers are more likely to use experimental or quasi-experimental methods than any other NBER program fields

·       Since I recently published my annual stats on development journals, it is of interest to see the AEA journal reports in the recently released AEA P&P.

o   In the AER, it received 1,718 submissions in 2023 and published 92. Desk reject rate is around 40%.  The editor notes he worries about this low number and “I believe the Review can publish substantially more papers without affecting its position as one of most desired publication outlets for economists. In the past year, the Review issued 147 revise and resubmits to first submissions. Allowing for an attrition rate of about 15 percent (about equally attributable to failure to resubmit and to rejections in a subsequent round), this should allow the Review to publish about 125 articles per year” – this should take the acceptance rate from 6-7% up to 8-9%.

o   AER Insights had 689 submissions and published 34, for an acceptance rate of around 5%.

o   AEJ Applied had 731 submissions and published 56, partly through trying to reduce a backlog of accepted papers. The acceptance rate is around 8%.  53% are desk-rejected. They discuss a slightly simpler process for transferring referee reports and a paper submitted  from other AEA journals “In 2023, 44 papers were submitted to AEJ Applied that had previously been submitted to the AER, and 27 papers were submitted that had previously been submitted to AER: Insights. We published 19 papers that were previously submitted to the AER and 2 papers that were previously submitted to AER: Insights; on net, these transfer papers represent 37 percent of the total papers published this year, which is in line with long-run averages over the past few years.”

·       Also in journal news, John List notes that the JPE Microeconomics has published new guidelines for data generation, including this: “Authors of studies that generate their own data will be expected to register their project before data collection in one or more of the various trial registries and write a pre-analysis plan (PAP) before data collection. If a study is not pre-registered and has no PAP, then it should not be submitted to JPE Micro. Studies submitted without the required pre-registration and PAP will be sent back to the author without a review”.  It then contains more details of what they would like in a PAP.  Another point to note is that the JPE Micro also offering a registered reports track. However, unlike the JDE, there is not the option of submitting the final paper to another journal (excepting the JPE) first.

·       Reminder, the NBER summer institute workshops are being livestreamed again on YouTube. The full program is here. Week 1 starts July 8, Development is July 22-23

David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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