Published on Development Impact

Weekly links November 10: blogging, economics job trajectories, where philanthropy should put its money on jobs, and more….

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·       The October issue of the Royal Economic Society newsletter focuses on public communication. I was asked to write a short piece on the evolving role of blogs in economic communication (ungated link). “I’ve come to see one of the main additional benefits of blogging (on a technical, rather niche, blog) as being part of the effort to help unlock the so-called “hidden curriculum” of knowledge and tools needed to enter and succeed in the economics profession. While such discussion occurred on Twitter, it is bite-sized and ephemeral. In contrast, posts we have written on the journal publication process, on using new methods and code, and on public policy topics remain searchable and end up on syllabi, and occasionally being cited. It is particularly gratifying to hear from students in developing countries who have used the posts to help improve their work. This role for blogs as an avenue for global teaching is one that seems less likely to be replaced by other forms of social media, and where there is plenty of scope for others to innovate further…. I do view interesting and useful blogs as public goods for the profession that, given this public good nature, are probably underprovided. Although I would caution most readers about trying to launch a solo blog, I would encourage them to think about creative ways to work with friends and colleagues to create new collective blogs for communicating economics better.”

·       With the job market currently starting again, the latest JEP has a paper on the early career paths of economists inside and outside academia that is highly recommended reading. It is written by authors with the Census bureau, and focuses on those trained in U.S. universities who remain in the U.S. for work (they note that more than one-third of econ PhDs in the U.S. do not end up working in the U.S.). But then they can link data at the time of graduating to panel data from tax records to trace earnings trajectories and type of employer for a panel of 12,000 PhD economists who got their PhDs between 2001 (my graduation year!) and 2017. They note the share going into academia has fallen, that there is in fact considerable mobility both ways between academia and industry, there is a lot of movement even pre-tenure (one-third of those placing in research departments have moved by the fifth year of their career), with higher earnings growth for those who move and in industry “while the median industry economist earns 30 percent more than the median academic economist in their initial placement, this difference increases to 60 percent after ten years”. Lots more in the paper.

·       In chapter 3 of the 6-part NY Times Interpreter piece on “India’s Daughters”, an encapsulation of the role public sector jobs play in shaping what jobs women aspire to work in:  “As Arti’s hard-won days of freedom ticked by, she was beginning to confront an uncomfortable truth: Government job opportunities were few and far between, even for Belarhi’s most accomplished daughters. But those were the only jobs that offered the security Arti craved. “Unless you steal, unless you go mad, unless you die, the job is not going to go away,” said Trijita Gonsalves, a political scientist at Lady Brabourne College in Kolkata, and author of a book about women in the Indian civil service. Government jobs also offer better retirement programs and more protections against harassment and gender discrimination, she said, although those rules are often not enforced. “These are the reasons people pray for government jobs so much, and not the private jobs,” Gonsalves added.”

·       More on jobs: in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Kartik Akileswaran, Jonathan Mazumdar and Angela Perez Albertos make a call for philanthropies to focus more on demand-side policies for job-seekers and not just on building skills. In a related piece, two of the same authors argue for donors to do more on helping expand developing countries productive capabilities, not just on helping the poor as consumers. As an example, in this blog, they discuss efforts to kickstart a global business sector providing outsourcing and call center services in Rwanda.

·       And even more on jobs: Jonathan Stöterau blogs about the role of stigma in reducing the effectiveness of wage subsidy and public works programs, and what can be done to reduce the stigma associated with such programs.

·       Calls for papers:

o   21st Midwest International Economic Development Conference (MWIEDC) to be held at the University of Chicago on April 5-6, submissions due December 17.

o   12th annual BITSS meeting, to be held at Berkeley March 12, submissions due Dec 31.

·       Senior Level Impact Evaluation Position: The Development Impact Measurement Department (CDI) of the IFC is seeking to recruit a Lead Economist to make major contributions to the development and implementation of an impact evaluation program covering selected IFC investment and advisory projects.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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