Published on Development Impact

Weekly links October 20: is p-hacking jaywalking or bank-robbing? Why is African labor so expensive? Why do some nudges fail? & more …

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  • NYTimes piece on when the revolution came for Amy Cuddy about how the replicability crisis came to psychology, but also about the issues surrounding online critiques: “subjectivity — had burrowed its way into the field’s methodology more deeply than had been recognized. Typically, when researchers analyzed data, they were free to make various decisions, based on their judgment, about what data to maintain: whether it was wise, for example, to include experimental subjects whose results were really unusual or whether to exclude them; to add subjects to the sample or exclude additional subjects because of some experimental glitch. More often than not, those decisions — always seemingly justified as a way of eliminating noise — conveniently strengthened the findings’ results….Everyone knew it was wrong, but they thought it was wrong the way it’s wrong to jaywalk,” Simmons recently wrote in a paper taking stock of the field. “We decided to write ‘False-Positive Psychology’ when simulations revealed it was wrong the way it’s wrong to rob a bank”
  • Following up on this, Chris Blattman has a thread on where does he think economics will collapse in a similar way – he offers two contenders: lab experiments (he ran several pilots each of N=200, each which gave different results); and long-run impacts in economic history (we never see papers saying this historic event had no long-run impact; the file drawer problem is likely large and data problems important).
  • Martin Ravallion has a small note on problems with the use of the inverse-hyperbolic sine transformation in poverty and inequality work and suggests an alternative.
  • On the CGD blog, Vijaya Ramachandran asks “can sub-Saharan Africa be a manufacturing destination?”  - there answer is mostly no: “for any given level of GDP, labor is more costly for firms located in sub-Saharan Africa” – although Ethiopia stands out as distinctive with lower costs and has attracted FDI.
  • Cass Sunstein on why some nudges fail – reasons include when people have strong preferences that go against the nudge (e.g. apparently the legal default is for women to retain their names when they marry, yet the majority go against this default); and when economic actors who the nudge threatens engage in counter-nudges (e.g. banks engage in marketing efforts to offset the legal default of not offering customers overdrafts unless they opt in). And counter-counternudges as one potential solution, such as making it harder to alter the original default, or regulating how counternudges can be framed (so that they don’t prey on loss aversion for example).
  • Call for papers: A conference on Globalization and Development will take place May 3-4, 2018 in Göttingen. Keynote speakers are Eliana La Ferrara, Nancy Qian and myself.  Submission deadline is November 30.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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