Published on Development Impact

Weekly links May 6: 10,000 working papers later, what development economics has to say about struggling US communities, the value of conferences, and more…

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·       On Let’s Talk Development, Aart Kraay celebrates the 10,000th paper of the World Bank Policy Research Working Paper series by looking back at paper 1, at the coverage of topics and countries over years, and at which papers have been most downloaded.

·       Dani Rodrik has a nice blog on Project Syndicate about how the old idea of dualism in development economics is increasingly relevant for studying the U.S. and other developed countries.

·       “the NBER conferences, including the Summer Institute, are widely appreciated for the important networking events that they are. What I don’t think is as appreciated are how they relate to the journal reviewing process. First, if you hang out there long enough people will learn your name and face. While academic economics is famously rigorous and occasionally brutal in its seminar and reviewing culture, the fact remains that humans are more forgiving, more generous of the benefit of the doubt, once we put a face to a name. It’s just harder to be mean or assume the worst in someone you’ve had a real conversation with them and confirmed their genuine humanity. Second, and this is probably more important, to present a paper at an NBER conference is to present to the pool your eventual reviewers will be drawn from and receive pre-submission referee reports. Being able to learn the perceived weaknesses of your paper before submitting to the magical top-5 and elite field journals is a prodigious advantage, particularly for scholars who don’t yet have a decade of experience trying to publish in their field.” – Mike Makowsky has a post called Let’s talk about the NBER – but this point holds more broadly about the importance of conferences, especially in-person ones, in the publication process. The post also makes other important points about the role of working papers and grants administration “It’s not crazy to suggest that most economics papers reach their total citations “half-life” while they are still working papers.”.

·       I’ve been enjoying the MRU conversations between Isaiah Andrews, Guido Imbens and Josh Angrist. In the most recent video, they talk about the need for econometricians to clearly show a use case and to keep their papers short; Josh Angrist offers his take on people who get really big IV estimates and then try to explain it in terms of LATE (it is more likely the exclusion restriction is violated); and there is an interesting discussion of whether the current model of PhD students not paying tuition and getting stipends makes sense if they are going to then work in tech companies – Josh notes it is unclear why we want to be subsidizing the training of the labor force of such companies, while Guido notes that the data and problems faced by tech may have some broader lessons for economics research more generally.

·       On the CGD blog, Martin Ravallion offers his take on the gaping hole in the picture of global poverty caused by India not releasing NSS data, and how a new paper by Roy and van der Weide helps fill this gap – and how going beyond headcount poverty measures to also look at the consumption floor suggest that progress in reducing poverty may have been accompanied by only very limited gains for the poorest.

·       Tyler Cowen interviews Chris Blattman about Chris’ excellent new book “Why we fight”. Tyler asks the question we’ve all been wondering “I know it’s a small country, and it’s not near many other countries, but New Zealand is very non-polycentric. If we put them somewhere else, made them bigger, would you think they would be more likely to go to war than, say, Canada?”.

·       On the 3ie blog, Miriam Berretta and Yue (Nicole) Wu summarize the results of an evidence gap map of energy efficiency interventions, along with a systematic review of interventions to assess residential energy efficiency interventions such as insulation.

·       Sure, Wordle and Worldle are fun, Lordle of the Rings is precious, and everyday playing Taylordle is a fairytale, but don’t you just wish they contained more trade stats? Well, Tradle may be just the thing for you – you get shown the total export volume and main export categories, and have to guess the country.

·       Job opening: IPA is looking for a new director of their entrepreneurship and private sector development program.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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